Breastfeeding is the safest way to feed your newborn. Not only does breastfeeding help reduce the risk of your baby being exposed to enteropathogens, but it decreases the risk of infection (pneumonia, meningitis, bacteria, UTI, and necrotizing enterocolitis), offers higher levels of immunologic factors, and lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Children who were breastfed are also less likely to be obese and tend to do better in school.
Breastfeeding can also benefit you as a mother by improving your health. It elevates maternal oxytocin levels, decreases postpartum bleeding, provokes a more rapid involution of the uterus, decreases menstrual blood loss, improves bone mineralization, decreases the risk of ovarian and breast cancer, increases mother-baby bonding, and saves money since you don’t have to purchase formula.
After 6 months, though, breastfed babies require more energy from iron-rich food sources, fluoride, and around 400 IU/day of vitamin D to continue to grow and develop into a healthy child. While you may choose to continue breastfeeding your child, at 7 months you can begin to introduce complementary solid foods into your baby’s diet.
Of course, before you start a solid food feeding schedule for a 7-month-old baby, you’ll want to make sure they are physically able to eat solid foods. You’ll know your baby is ready to eat solid foods if they can:
- Sit upright on their own
- Hold their head up unassisted
- Open their mouth when food is presented to them
- Swallow easily
Another good rule of thumb for knowing if your baby is ready to eat solids is if they have doubled their birth weight. This generally indicates that their digestive system is sufficiently developed to process solid foods.
These are just guidelines so speak with your baby’s pediatrician if you’re unsure about whether your baby is ready for solid food.
What kinds of solids should you be feeding a 7-month-old? You want to make sure that the food you’re feeding your baby is as nutritious and unprocessed as possible — and easy to eat. You may want to make sure that the food is soft enough for your baby to mash with their gums, as not all teeth will have come in by the 7th month. Often, it’s only the lower central incisors at this age. Remember, too, that at 7 months old, boys need about 825 kcal/day while girls need about 765 kcal/day.
Here are some solid foods that you can try feeding your baby:
- Pureed baby food from a jar or pouch, without added sugar or preservatives
- Cooked mashed foods like potatoes, squash, and carrots
- Whole grain, iron-fortified baby cereals
- Pureed fruits and vegetables (cooked)
- Soft or mashed legumes, like split peas and lentils
A 7-month-old’s feeding should not include:
- Honey, which has been linked with infant botulism (a rare but potentially fatal disease).
- Cow’s milk, which can be difficult to digest and could trigger an allergic reaction
- Hard nuts, small fruits, grapes, gum, and candy, which can be choking hazards
- Eggs and egg whites, in particular, which are a common food allergy
- Processed foods and food with added sugars, as they are unhealthy and can cause indigestion and diarrhea
Consult your baby’s doctor if you’re unsure about what foods your baby can or can’t eat.
Once you introduce solids into your baby’s diet, you can and should continue to breastfeed or supplement their meals with stored breast milk. This may not be possible if you’re taking certain medications, and it’s recommended that you talk to your doctor about it.
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Now that you know what kinds of foods you can try with your baby, you might be wondering, what is a good feeding schedule for a 7-month-old. We’ve prepared a sample feeding schedule for a 7-month-old baby that will help you prepare for mealtimes.
A 7-month-old feeding schedule for a breastfed baby will look slightly different than one for a formula-fed one. For breastfed babies, continue to breastfeed every three to four hours and add solid food three times per day, as follows:
- Early morning: Breastfeed your baby when they first wake up
- Morning: Breastfeed your baby just before you feed them a small portion of solid foods (four to six ounces) for breakfast
- Early Afternoon: Breastfeed your baby after their morning nap and before feeding them a small portion of solid foods for lunch
- Afternoon: Breastfeed your baby before and after their mid-day nap
- Early evening: Breastfeed your baby before serving them a small portion of solid foods at dinner time
- Evening: Breastfeed your baby before putting them down to bed
A 7-month-old baby feeding schedule for formula-fed babies will look a little different. Formula-fed babies should be given six to eight ounces of formula four to six times per day, with solid food given three times per day.
Feeding a 7-month-old baby takes time, patience, and lots of trial and error. Try these tips to gradually increase the amount of solid food in your baby’s diet:
- Start small, offering one tablespoon at a time and working your way up to 12 tablespoons of solid food with each meal, depending on how hungry your baby is
- Limit serving finger foods that require more skillful dexterity
- Try to keep a schedule — solid foods should be served at the table and fed at regular meal times, like breakfast, lunch, and dinner
- Introduce new foods individually and about a week apart in order to identify any allergies and intolerance the baby may have; it’s best to introduce foods from most bland to sweetest
- Offer foods with different textures, like mashed, pureed, ground, and soft solids
- Start with pureed foods, working your way up to mashed foods as baby’s teeth grow and they become more comfortable with chewing
- Avoid serving hard, round, or sticky foods that could pose a choking hazard; cut solids into pieces smaller than ½ inch thick
Many moms know how challenging it can be to keep to a rigid feeding schedule for a 7-month-old. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t keep to a formal schedule and let your baby be your guide! Notice if they lean into the spoon or reach for food on your plate. If they’re hungry, they’ll show it!
For more great tips on raising a baby, check out Flo.health.