Q&A: What to feed a 1-year-old?

Bree writes:

"I’m wondering – what exactly does one feed a one-year old? (food, right?). My baby is 11 months old right now and she’s pretty much off of purees and feeds herself small chunk foods (avocado, rice, tofu, banana, canned fruit/vegetable chunks, beans). She gets some breastmilk and some formula (she goes through a 32oz. can of powdered formula a week). I think she’s actually eating less than when she was getting jarred food, but she doesn’t put up with jarred food much anymore but I don’t think it’s a big deal because she tops off with formula.  Anyway, I’d like to work on switching her from formula to milk (either cow or goat – I haven’t decided yet), but it seems that formula is a very different kind of nutrition than regular milk. (also – in regards to weaning off a bottle – I don’t think it would be hard, she likes her born free sippy cups – but is there any real reason to do so?). So – should she be off of formula? Can she be off of formula (it is expensive!)? Should we do anything to replace the nutritional benefits of formula?

Oh and she’s a pretty little kid in general – regularly hits the bottom 5% of the growth chart for weight – but does grow consistently."

To start off, it doesn't matter if she's in the bottom 5%, as long as she grows consistently. Speaking as the mother of a child who was always in the top 5%, someone's got to be on either end for the concept of "average" to work. If a kid stops growing, that can indicate a problem, but as long as a kid follows the curve, it doesn't matter where the curve is on the chart.

And I think you're dead on with your instinct that there's no real reason to wean off the bottle at a year. If you accept the idea that a child can nurse past one year (and I'm guessing you do), then why shouldn't a kid be able to use a bottle past a year? The whole point, as I see it, is to start getting a kid to be able to drink out of a cup right around that time. But that doesn't mean you have to take the bottle away. Instead, just introduce a cup with water to get the kid started on the long road to Drinking Like An Adult.

(Speaking of which, you know there's no medical reason for sippy cups? I eschewed them, because drinking from a sippy is not a lifelong skill, so I thought it was a waste of a learning curve. I went with a straw cup instead, as drinking from a straw is something my kids will do later in life. You could also go with a sport-top cup, as most adult occasionally drink out of sport-tops, too. If you like the sippy cup, though, carry on with it. Everyone's got the baby equipment they feel most comfortable with.)

I'm going to suggest that you read the Ellen Satyr book that everyone loves: Child of Mine: Feeding With Love and Good Sense. She's got a great philosophy about feeding, and the book contains tons of historical and nutritional information about how babies have been and are fed, and what they really need when.

The other strength of the book is that it encourages you to follow your instincts, and that's what I'm going to tell you to do, too. If you feel like changing over to milk from formula at a year is not adequate, then don't. Plenty of people still give some formula past a year, or transition their children by cutting the formula progressively with milk over the course of a few weeks or months. Nothing bad is going to happen if you stick with formula, and if you're worried that she's not going to get enough nutrition from the foods she's eating, then do what feels right to you.

But also know that many parents are convinced that their kids are hardly eating anything, and yet still they grow and thrive. As long as you are putting nutritious foods in front of her, she'll eat what she needs (barring any metabolic or other feeding disorders, of course). And most of the kids in the US, at least, these days are drinking milk (instead of formula or breastmilk) after a year. So it's fine to have her off formula if she's OK with it and you're OK with it.

What did you guys do about getting off formula or breastmilk, and when did you do it? How did it go? Is there anything you'd change about the process you went through?