The Ideal Dinner Time for Babies
As your baby transitions to solid foods, she will start eating three meals and two snacks a day. To make sure your wee tyke is getting enough food, try to set up a regular feeding regimen coinciding with your family’s regular mealtimes. If all goes well, you should be able to share dinnertime with all of your family members, including the baby.
Look for cues that indicate that your little one is hungry. This is the best indicator of when to feed your baby, especially during the early months, compared to just using the clock as a guide. The American Academy of Pediatrics says to watch for hunger cues like starting to fuss, putting her fists in her mouth, smacking her lips or looking more alert. Depending on how old she is, your baby will start showing hunger signs every three to four hours during the day and will demonstrate these behaviors before crying for food.
To make sure your baby is getting enough to eat, you may have to do some trial and error with the time schedule. The best time to offer dinner would ideally be two to three hours before offering the nighttime bottle and her regular bedtime. This way, she will be hungry enough to finish most or all of this last bottle. For instance, if she normally goes down for the night at 7 p.m., try to give her dinner at 5 p.m. Of course, with other family and job obligations, this may not be feasible; just do the best you can, and aim to be consistent.
If at all possible, try to schedule your baby’s dinnertime with the rest of the family’s mealtime. Both Kids Health and AAP point out that a regular family mealtime can be a time to connect with family members and to share some quality time. Including the baby in this valuable family time can be beneficial for all of you. Often the baby can eat small pieces of the food that the rest of the family is eating, as long as it’s soft, well-cooked, small and easy to gum. Stay away from raw fruits and veggies, hard foods, chunks of peanut butter and other foods that pose a choking hazard. The baby will be more likely to try new foods if she sees others eating them, too.
Right before you put your baby down for the night, AAP recommends offering a 1- to 5-month-old a 4- to 6-ounce bottle and a 6- to 12-month baby a 6- to 8-ounce bottle or breastfeeding her until she is satisfied, looks content or falls asleep. If she is sleeping through the night, this feeding will fill her belly for the night and keep her nourished until the morning. If she is still waking up during the night, it will keep her satisfied until her next feeding. Follow this evening meal with wiping your baby’s teeth clean with a damp washcloth or baby brush and water.