Meal Tips + Ideas: 12-18 Months

Friends, the time has come: you have a toddler! It’s been a long year, I’m sure, and here you are with a walking, talking, miniature human.

While there are a seemingly endless amount of rules about how to feed and take care of an infant, those rules lessen the older your little one gets. Things just get a little easier when your child gets more independent.

12-18 months is a big transition for baby and mother as your infant turns into a child and you wean them off of some of the habits they have formed in their first year. It can be a little bit frustrating at times, so to help you out here are some tips to get you through.

Tip #1: It’s 100% up to you… but if you’re formula feeding you are safe to switch to cow’s milk. If you are breastfeeding, it’s fine to fully wean.

I switched right away so I could get rid of the cost of formula! I had to mix cow’s milk with formula for a few months just to get him used to the taste, but after he adjusted he loved it. We settled on cow’s milk with breakfast and for afternoon nap time.

If you have a picky baby, you may want to consider giving them a gummy multivitamin to replace the nutrients that came from the formula/breastmilk.

Tip #2: Your goal after their 1st birthday should be to wean them off of baby habits into adult eating habits.

A baby’s 1st birthday is a huge milestone for them. It’s monumental in the transition from baby to toddler. Generally they begin walking, taking less naps, attempting to communicate through language, and often they will want to wean off of the breast. 12-18 months is a big 6 months for mother’s as well. It’s the best time to wean them off of “baby” things like bottles, pacifiers, baby food, milk, and transition them into adult-like eating and sleeping habits.

For many years it’s been taught that milk is incredibly important for health. Now it’s controversial whether dairy products are helpful at all. I let my baby have whole cow’s milk in 1-2 bottles a day after his 1st birthday, but my goal was to get rid of the milk altogether. He eats plenty of dairy products as it is. Fat and calcium are the main nutrients that milk is helpful for. If they are getting enough fat and calcium through their diet, they don’t need to be drinking milk. Water is sufficient for their drinking needs.

Tip #3: You should be actively trying to wean them off the bottle & pacifier (breastfeeding is not included – you can breastfeed as long as you like!)

Why is this? The nipple on the bottles and pacifiers can cause the front teeth to form around them. The nipple on the breast does not do this, so it’s not cause for concern.

Tip #4: They can eat just about anything.

Honey, popcorn, nuts… it’s time to try it all! Of course, don’t forget about the 2-3 day rule. If they haven’t had a food before be very cautious when trying it out for the first time. Watch for allergies. Continue to be careful with how big of pieces you are feeding your child to avoid choking while they learn to eat. By 18 months your child should be getting much more adept at eating larger chunks and taking care of himself, but it’s definitely a slow transition for safety reasons.

Tip #5: Now is the time to crack down on dental care.

Not all babies are the same, but most 1-year-old’s have a decent amount of teeth. Formula and breastmilk are both perfectly fine for dental health, but cow’s milk is not. Make sure that you are brushing your toddler’s teeth in the morning and before bed. It’s also very important that they drink nothing but water, formula or breastmilk after brushing their teeth at night. Water for night time drinking is by far the best option, and it’s even better from a sippy cup than a bottle.

Meal Ideas: 12-18 Months

Protein 

  • Yogurt
  • Hard Boiled Eggs
  • Hot dogs (diced)
  • Chicken Nuggets
  • Peanut Butter
  • Trail Mix
  • Mashed Potatoes (regular or sweet)
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Refried Beans (my baby liked these with some salsa, greek yogurt and shredded cheese)
  • Scrambled Eggs (you can also add some shredded cheese and/or salsa!)
  • Macaroni + Cheese (or other cooked pasta)
  • Ground Beef (my son LOVED taco filling! I would put the seasoned beef in a bowl with sour cream, cheese, and a dash of salsa. This is still one of his favorite meals.)
  • Shredded Chicken
  • Cheese (chunked or sliced)
  • Chili (or other thick soups)
  • Casseroles

Veggies & Fruits

Pretty much anything goes! Fruit/veggie pouches are still a great option, no matter how old your toddler is. It’s an easy, go-to option on busy days. Any cooked veggies or soft fruits you can give whole or halved. Dried fruits are great whole and raw veggies need to be sliced or diced to an easy to eat size for your child’s age.

Cereal

Around 12 months I began making my son homemade granola bars for breakfast and he loves them! I usually add some berries and a small cup of milk. Dry cereal is also fine for children this age.

Snacks

Crackers, veggie straws, pretzels, popcorn, goldfish, fruit snacks, dried fruit, applesauce, fruit pouches, cheese, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, and dry cereal are all great snack options for toddlers.

Grains

Almost any sort of grain is perfectly safe at this age. Try out anything that you have around!

Sample Feeding Schedules: 12-18 Months

12-13 months

  • 1-3 bottle feedings / nursing sessions daily (6-8 oz every feeding)
  • 12-16 oz formula / breastmilk / daily
  • 4-5 solid meals daily

8:00 – Cereal + Fruit + 3 oz cow’s milk

10:30 – Nap

12:30 – Protein + Veggie/Fruit + 3 oz water

2:00 – 6-8 oz bottle / Nurse

2:30 – Nap

4:00 – Snack (finger foods) + 3 oz water

6:00 – Meat + Veggie + 2-3 oz water

6:30 – Bathe

7:00 – 6-8 oz bottle / Nurse

7:30 – Bedtime

14-15 months 

  • 8-12 oz milk daily (5-6 oz per cup)
  • 1-2 milk cups or nursing sessions daily
  • Solids 4-5 times daily
  • Try giving a water sippy cup to carry around all day
  • Remove bottles + formula (replace w/ sippy cups + cow’s milk or water)

8:00 – Cereal + Fruit + 3 oz cow’s milk

10:00 – SNACK (finger foods) + 3 oz water

10:30- Nap

12:30 – Protein + Veggie/Fruit + 3 oz water

2:30 – Nap

4:00 – SNACK (finger foods) + 3 oz water

6:00 – Meat + Veggie + 3 oz water

6:30 – Bathe

7:00 – 5 oz milk cup / Nurse

7:30 – Bedtime

16+ months 

  • 32 oz liquid daily (milk/juice/water)
  • Start practicing with silverware
  • Transition from chunked foods to whole foods when ready

8:00 – Cereal + Fruit + 4 oz cow’s milk

12:00 – Protein + Veggie/Fruit + 4 oz water

1:00 – Nap

4:00 – SNACK (finger foods) + 4 oz water

6:00 – Meat + Veggie + 4 oz water

6:30 – Bathe

7:30 – Bedtime

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