Healthy Eating

As a parent, it is your job to decide:

  • What healthy foods to offer your child. 
  • When to offers meals and snacks.
  • Where your child will eat.

Your child will decide:

  • Which foods to eat from what is offered.
  • How much to eat.

Your baby can show you when they are hungry by opening their mouth for a spoon. When your baby is full, they may shut their mouth, turn their head or push food away. It may take many tries before your baby accepts a new food.

Tips for healthy habits:

  • Eat together as a family.
  • Eat without screens, toys, books and other distractions.
  • Your baby does not need juice. Give fruit instead.
  • You do not need to add butter, margarine, salt or sweeteners (sugar, syrup) to your baby's food.
  • Do not give honey to your baby until they are at least 1 year old.

For information about breastfeeding, please visit our breastfeeding section.

How do I know if my baby is hungry?

Babies need to feed a lot in the early days. The more you feed your baby, the more milk your body makes. Your baby has many ways to tell you they are hungry.  These signs are called feeding cues. 

Your baby is hungry when you see these feeding cues: 

  • Rapid eye movements 
  • Stretching, moving arms and legs
  • Bringing hands to mouth
  • Sticking out tongue and licking lips
  • Sucking motions or sounds
  • Rooting (opening the mouth, searching to suck, and sucking on contact)
  • Turning head back and forth
  • Soft cooing or sighing sounds

Your baby is full when:

  • Your baby closes their mouth 
  • Your baby turns away from your breast
  • Your baby looks relaxed and calm

Following your baby's feeding cues will: 

  • Help breastfeeding go well 
  • Help you get to know your baby
  • Allow your baby to build trust, and allow mom to gain confidence
  • Build a positive feeding relationship which supports child growth

Remember...

  • Your baby should feed at least 8 times or more in a 24 hour day, until about 6 weeks of life.
  • It is normal for some babies to have many feedings in a short period. They may sleep longer between feeds at other times. This is called cluster feeding. This is more common in the later afternoon or evening. 
  • Skin-to-skin contact lets mom learn baby's feeding cues. 
  • Crying is a late sign of hunger. A baby crying from hunger may be too upset to settle down to feed.  Get to know your baby's early feeding cues. 
  • Your baby will have growth spurts. These happen at around 2 to 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months. Growth spurts typically last 2 to 3 days. Your baby may feed more often at these times and your breast milk will increase to meet your baby's needs.
Baby formula

If you have made the informed decision to give your baby formula please see the information below on how to safely prepare, store and provide formula.

Tips for feeding formula

  • Give your baby only iron-fortified formula 
  • Speak with your baby's health care provider before changing infant formula
  • Do not put your baby to bed with a bottle
  • Watch for feeding cues and signs that your baby is full
  • Read the labels carefully and check the expiry date on all formula packages. Make sure cans are clean and have no dents.
  • If your baby is not breastfed, iron-fortified infant formula is the only food that should be given for the first 6 months. It should be used until your baby is 9 to 12 months old and able to eat a variety of food.
  • Every baby needs a different amount of infant formula. Your baby may drink a little more or less than other babies.
  • Never replace formula with 1%, 2%, skim milk, coffee whitener, condensed evaporated milk, or soy or rice beverages

Types of Formula 

There are three types of formula that offer proper nutrition for your baby and meet Health Canada standards.

Infant formula type

Cost

Mixing directions/How To prepare

Storage

Liquid Concentrate

More expensive than powdered

Follow exact instructions for mixing as listed on the product. For infants up to 4 months of age it is important to mix formula with water that has been boiled.

*Sterile product when unopened. After opening, cover the can tightly with a lid and refrigerate. Read the labels for specific storage instructions.

Ready to feed

Most costly and convenient

Does not require any mixing or water

*Sterile product when unopened. After opening, twist the cap back on and refrigerate. Read the label for specific storage instructions.

Powdered

Important information for babies with specific health conditions. Please see below. **

Least expensive

Follow exact instructions for mixing as listed on the product.  Always mix formula with water that has been boiled. Prepared formula should be given or stored right after it has cooled.

Not a *sterile product. After opening, cover the can with the lid. Store in a cool, dark place for no more than 30 days.

*Sterile: A product that does not contain harmful bacteria and does not pose a risk of infection.
**Powdered infant formula may contain bacteria. It is safer to use a sterile liquid infant formula to feed premature and low birth weight infants under two months of age and babies with weakened immune systems. If you are using powdered infant formula water should be boiled for 2 minutes and cooled to no less than 70 C (takes about 30 minutes) before mixing as per the packaging instructions. The prepared formula should be given immediately after it has cooled to the right temperature.

How to sterilize equipment

Follow these steps to keep your baby safe. Sterilize equipment until your baby is at least 4 months old.
Electric kettles and dishwashers do not sterilize equipment.

What you need

A large pot with lid, bottle brush and nipple brush, tongs, knife, fork, can opener, glass measuring cup, glass bottles (if possible), nipples, caps, rims, mixing jugs and any other equipment.

If using a disposable system

Bottle holders, rims, caps, nipples and a roll of disposable liners. Throw out liners after one use. Throw out nipples when they become soft and sticky. *Note: If using disposable bottles sterilize only the nipples.

Steps

  • Wash hands and counter with soap and water
  • Wash all items in warm, soapy water
  • Make sure holes in nipples are not clogged
  • Rinse well
  • Put clean items in a pot and fill pot with water
  • Boil for 2 minutes and keep pot covered until items are needed
  • Remove items with tongs and set on a clean paper towel

Making and storing formula

Each type of formula is made differently. Follow exact instructions listed on the product.

Mixing your baby's formula

  • Unsoftened tap water, bottled water and well water can be used to mix your baby's formula. However, none of these types of water are sterile.
  • Well water should be tested at least twice a year for bacteria and nitrates. For more information about well water testing or contact Ottawa Public Health at 613-580-6744 ext. 23806.
  • Do not use mineral water, distilled water, carbonated water or softened tap water for formula preparation.
  • Boil any kind of water for 2 minutes for babies until they are 4 months old. Use a pot on the stove or an electric kettle to sterilize water.
  • Boiled water can be stored in a covered sterile container for up to 3 days in the fridge or for 24 hours at room temperature.
  • If travelling, boil water at home and measure the correct amount of cooled boiled water into a sterilized container. If you are unsure about the safety of the water where you will be visiting ask your health care provider

How to prepare infant formula

For healthy-term infants

  1. Wash hands and counter with soap and water
  2. Run cold water for at least 2 minutes (use approved filter if you have lead pipes), boil water for 2 minutes and let it cool and use within 30 minutes
  3. Have sterilized equipment ready on a clean paper towel
  4. Read the label carefully, it will tell you how much formula and water to use. It could harm your baby if you add too little or too much water
  5. Wash top of can with warm water
  6. Pour boiled water into empty glass measuring cup
  7. Prepare formula - powdered, liquid or ready-to-feed
  8. Pour amount of infant formula for one feeding into each bottle (use glass if possible)
  9. Pick up nipples, rims and caps with sterile tongs and put on bottles and then tighten with your hands
  10. Shake bottle well
  11. Cool bottle under cold running water
  12. Put bottles in refrigerator and use within 24 hours

Powdered infant formula

Fill scoop from can with powder and level with knife. Add the required number of scoops of powder to the boiled water and mix until no lumps of powder are left. Cover can with plastic lid and store in cool, dry place. Use within 1 month.

Liquid formula

Add an equal amount of liquid concentrate formula to the boiled water. Be sure to measure carefully. Stir well with a sterile fork. Tightly cover open can and put in refrigerator. Use within 48 hours.

Ready-to-feed infant formula

Shake can. Open with a sterile can opener. Pour amount of infant formula for one feeding into each bottle (use glass if possible). DO NOT ADD WATER. Tightly cover open can and put in refrigerator. Use within 48 hours.

Storing formula

  • Throw away any leftover formula at the end of each feeding
  • Do not freeze any type of formula. Freezing changes the fat content in infant formula.
  • If travelling for more than 30 minutes store bottles with an ice pack in a cooler or thermal lunch bag. Store formula in a refrigerator when you reach your destination.
  • Formula should be used within 24 hours from the time it was made, as long as it is kept in the refrigerator

How to warm your baby's bottle

Place the bottle of formula in warm water for 15 minutes. Shake the bottle to heat evenly. Check the temperature by putting a few drops on your wrist. Never microwave your baby's bottle. This creates "hotspots" that may burn your baby's mouth

How to feed your baby with a bottle

  1. Watch your baby for early feeding cues
  2. Wait for baby to open her mouth
  3. Tip bottle slightly so there is no air in the nipple
  4. Always hold your baby close in an upright position, hold baby skin-to-skin as often as possible 
  5. Watch your baby swallow and allow baby to rest (babies often need a break and you should allow them)
  6. Burp your baby as needed
  7. Stop feeding when your baby shows signs of being full
  8. Keep your baby upright for at least 30 minutes after feeding
  9. Throw away what your baby does not want to drink within 2 hours

Guide to amount of infant formula to prepare daily

The amount of formula to feed is different for every baby. Follow the signs that tell you when your baby is full or hungry.

Age

Approximate amount of formula in each bottle in ounces and millilitres

Approximate number of feedings per day

Approximate amount of formula per day in ounces and millilitres

Birth

½ to 2 oz or 15 to 59 ml

6 to 10

14 to 22 oz or 410 to 650 ml

2 weeks

2 to 4 oz or 59 to 118 ml

6 to 10

16 to 26 oz or 470 to 770 ml

1 month

2 to 4 oz or 59 to 118 ml

6 to 8

17 to 29 oz or 500 to 860 ml

2 months

2 to 4 oz or 59 to 118 ml

5 to 7

22 to 35 oz or 650 to 1030 ml

3 months

5 to 6 oz or 148 to 177 ml

5 to 7

24 to 39 oz or 710 to 1150 ml

4 months

5 to 6 oz or 148 to 177 ml

5 to 7

20 to 37 oz or 590 to 1090 ml

5 months

5 to 6 oz or 148 to 177 ml

5 to 7

22 to 39 oz or 650 to 1150 ml

6 months

6 to 8 oz or 177 to 237 ml

4 to 5

17 to 35 oz or 500 to 1030 ml

7 months

6 to 8 oz or 177 to 237 ml

4 to 5

16 to 35 oz or 470 to 1030 ml

8 months

6 to 8 oz or 177 to 237 ml

4 to 5

17 to 37 oz or 500 to 1090 ml

9 months

6 to 8 oz or 177 to 237 ml

3 to 4

10 to 30 oz or 300 to 890 ml

10 months

6 to 8 oz or 177 to 237 ml

3 to 4

10 to 31 oz or 300 to 920 ml

11 months

6 to 8 oz or 177 to 237 ml

3 to 4

11 to 33 oz or 330 to 980 ml

12 months

6 to 8 oz or 177 to 237 ml

0 to 3

0 to 21 oz or 0 to 620 ml

Note: This table is a guide for the approximate amount of infant formula to prepare. The infant's appetite should be the guide for how much infant formula to offer. Adapted from Manual of Clinical Dietetics 2000, Institute of Medicine 2005, and World Health Organization 2004/2006.
For information on infant formula recalls please visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website.

For more information:

Contact the Ottawa Public Health Information Line at 613-580-6744

Skin to skin - All babies benefit from being held skin-to-skin.  Find out more

Feeding your baby and introduction to solids
Six months

6 Months: Time for Iron-rich Foods

Your baby is ready to start eating solids when they can sit up in a chair, hold their head up, lean forward, and follow food with their eyes. When you start solids, continue to breastfeed for up to 2 years and beyond.

  • Continue to breastfeed and give a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 I.U.
  • Your baby is ready for soft, lumpy, tender, cooked food. Puréed food is not necessary.
  • When any new food is started, watch for signs of allergic reaction.
  • Use a spoon to feed your baby. Give 1 teaspoon or less. Slowly give more.
  • Start with once a day in the morning. Then increase to 2 times per day.
  • Give both meat (and alternatives) and infant cereal as first solid foods.
  • Start finger foods like soft fruit (banana, mango), toast crust, shredded cheese, and scrambled egg.

Meat and Alternatives:

  • Serve meat and alternatives cooked, mashed, finely minced or scrambled. You can try giving your baby beef, pork, chicken, fish, legumes, eggs and tofu.

Grain Products:

  • Try feeding your baby single grain iron-fortified infant cereal (rice, barley, oatmeal). Start by giving cereal mixed with lots of liquid (water or expressed breast milk) and slowly use less liquid.

Vegetables and Fruit:

  • You can serve any cooked and finely mashed vegetable or fruit to your baby. You can also serve them raw if they are soft like pears, bananas or peaches.

Milk and Alternatives:

  • Examples include shredded cheese, full fat yogurt, cottage cheese and ricotta cheese (at least 2% M.F.).

Common food allergens such as peanuts, fish, wheat, milk products, soy and whole eggs can be given from 6 months of age. When starting these foods, give only 1 per day and wait 2 days before starting another common food allergen.

Seven to Eight Months

7-8 Months: Time for More Texture

Your baby is ready for more textured foods when he/she can bite off food, pick up food with fingers, and drink from an open cup (spilling is okay).

  • Continue to breastfeed and give a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 I.U.
  • Give small, bite-sized finger foods. You can try cooked ground meat, fish, egg, noodles, rice, toast, soft vegetable or fruit, and cheese.
  • Offer food 2 to 3 times per day.

Meat and Alternatives:

  • Continue with iron-rich meats, eggs and legumes. Semi-solid or minced is best.
  • Try giving your baby a thin spread of nut butter on bite-sized toast.

Grain Products:

  • Start mixed grain infant cereals.
  • Try rice, pasta, dry cereals, and dry toast. Whole grain is best.

Vegetables and Fruit:

  • Offer pieces of cooked vegetables. You can also try soft, raw vegetables and fruit.

Milk and Alternatives:

  • Continue with yogurt, cottage cheese, and ricotta cheese.
  • You can try giving small pieces of other cheeses.
  • Give water in an open cup. Spilling is okay.

Avoid products that contain raw or undercooked meat, eggs, poultry or fish. You should also avoid giving your baby unpasteurized products, including dairy, eggs, juices or cider.

Nine to Twelve Months

Nine to Twelve Months: Time to Chew

When your baby can chew, pick up food and put into mouth, control food in mouth, hold spoon, cup.

  • Breastfeed and give a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 I.U.
  • Serve family food that is grated, finely chopped, in pieces or strips.
  • Offer food 3 to 4 times per day.

Meat and Alternatives:

  • Serve any meat and alternatives that your baby can feed themselves by using a spoon or their fingers.

Grain Products:

  • Give small pieces of whole grain bread, rice, couscous, pita, and pasta.

Vegetables and Fruit:

  • Any soft vegetable or fruit. You can serve cooked or raw.

Milk and Alternatives:

  • Slowly start your baby on whole cow's milk (3.25% M.F.), once a wide variety of foods are being eaten
  • Offer milk or breastmilk after food
  • Offer water and milk in an open cup
Feeding your toddler
12 to 24 months

For toddlers 12 to 24 months, offer a variety of food from each of the 4 food groups in Canada's Food Guide every day. Let your toddler decide how much to eat from what you serve. There is no recommended number of servings for each food group for this age.

Trying new foods

  • Encourage your toddler to try new foods. Offer your toddler the same food as the rest of the family at meals and snacks.
  • Offer new foods often and serve them with food she already likes. Your toddler may need to try a food many times before they like it.
  • Your toddler will be more willing to try new foods when they are relaxed. Focus on pleasant conversation at meal times.
  • Avoid pressuring or bribing your toddler to eat. This can make them less willing to eat and can prevent them from knowing when she is hungry and full.

Offer healthy drinks

  • Give water to your toddler between meals and snacks, and when your toddler is thirsty.
  • Offer your toddler 2 cups of homo milk (3.25% M.F.) each day, or less if breastfeeding. Too much milk can leave your toddler feeling too full for other healthy foods.
  • Give fruit to your toddler instead of juice. Children do not need juice.
  • Sipping on milk, juice, or watered down juice between meals may cause tooth decay.

Planning meals and snacks

  • Offer 3 meals and 2 to 3 snacks each day.
  • Make sure your toddler is hungry at meal time. Try spacing out meals and snacks by 2 to 3 hours.
  • Going out for the day with your toddler? Pack enough food so you can continue your meal and snack time routine.

Trust your toddler's appetite

  • Let your toddler decide how much to eat. Some days, your toddler may eat more or less food.
  • Offer small amounts of food to your toddler. If your toddler wants more food, it is okay to give it to them.
  • Your toddler may decide to say no to a food, snack or meal. Try not to worry. Skipping one meal or snack will not harm your child.
2 to 3 years old

General

  • Eat as a family.
  • As a parent, set an example by eating a variety of food.
  • Limit juice to no more than 125-175 mL (4 to 6 oz) per day. Serve vegetables and fruit instead.
  • Include at least 3 to 4 food groups in meals. See Canada's Food Guide for more information.
  • Offer foods multiple times to encourage your toddler to try them. It may take 10 - 15 times before they try the new food.
  • Offer new foods one at a time along with at least 1 food your toddler likes.
  • Expect your toddler's appetite to vary from day to day. Schedule meals and snacks 2-3 hours apart so that your toddler comes to the table hungry.
  • You can start to include your child in meal and snack preparation as early as 2 years of age. Depending on their age and development stage, different aspects of cooking can be age appropriate.
  • Children 2 to 3 years old like to explore with their senses. They can help you with simpler tasks such as washing vegetables and fruit, adding items to dishes, and smelling herbs and spices.

Vegetables and Fruit

Grain Products

Milk and Alternatives

  • Continue to breastfeed until 2 years and beyond.
  • Give cow's milk in a cup. Before 24 months, serve homo (3.25% M.F.) milk. After 24 months, you can switch to 1% or 2%.
  • Milk and alternatives are important for growth and healthy bones and teeth. But 3 or more cups of milk can be filling and leave little room for other healthy foods.
  • 2 Food Guide servings of milk and alternatives each day is recommended.
  • For portion sizes, see How to Build a Healthy Toddler (PDF).

Meat and Alternatives

Feeding your preschooler (3 to 4 years)

General

  • Eat as a family.
  • As a parent, set an example by eating a variety of food.
  • Limit juice to no more than 125-175 mL (4 to 6 oz) per day. Serve vegetables and fruit instead.
  • Include at least 3 to 4 food groups in meals. See Canada's Food Guide for more information.
  • Offer foods multiple times to encourage your child to try them. It may take 10 to 15 times before they try the new food.
  • Offer new foods one at a time along with at least 1 food your preschooler likes.
  • Expect your preschooler's appetite to vary from day to day. Schedule meals and snacks 2-3 hours apart so that your child comes to the table hungry.

Vegetables and Fruit

  • Offer your child 1 dark green and 1 orange vegetable each day.
  • For 3 years old, 4 Food Guide servings is recommended.
  • For 4 years old, 5 Food Guide servings is recommended.
  • For portion sizes, see How to Build a Healthy Preschooler (PDF).

Grain Products

  • Offer your child whole grain products each day.
  • For 3 years old, 3 Food Guide servings is recommended.
  • For 4 years old, 4 Food Guide servings is recommended.
  • For portion sizes, see How to Build a Healthy Preschooler (PDF).

Milk and Alternatives

Meat and Alternatives

  • Offer your preschooler alternatives such as beans, lentils and tofu often.
  • For 3 and 4 year olds, 1 Food Guide serving is recommended.
  • For portion sizes, see How to Build a Healthy Preschooler (PDF).
Choking Hazards for your Child Under 4 Years

The following foods are choking hazards for children under 4 years:

  • Hard foods
  • Small and rounds foods
  • Smooth and sticky solid foods

Examples include:

  • Hard candies or cough drops
  • Gum
  • Popcorn
  • Marshmallows
  • Whole nuts
  • Seeds
  • Fish with bones
  • Hot dogs
  • Snacks using toothpicks or skewers

Choking prevention tips:

  • Wait until your child is sitting before giving them food. Eating while playing or while you are driving is not safe.
  • Do not give your child under 4 years old any of the choking hazards listed above.
  • For soft round foods, cut in half length-wise. Then cut into smaller pieces.
  • Cook or grate hard vegetables such as carrots. Peel and chop fruit into small pieces.
  • Make nut butters less sticky. Spread nut butters thinly or mix with applesauce or infant cereal.

Want to speak with a Registered Dietitian?

  • Call Telehealth Ontario and ask to speak with a Registered Dietitian. Available Monday-Friday 9am-5pm at 1-866-797-0000 (TTY: 1-866-797-0007)

Do you have more questions?

 

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