Best Advice from U.S.D.A on Feeding Infants & Toddlers: 11 Takeaways

By Nicole Silber, RD, CSP, CDN, Pediatric Nutrition Expert

Best Advice from U.S.D.A on Feeding Infants & Toddlers: 11 Takeaways

We asked Registered Dietitian, Nicole Silber, RD, CSP, CLC, for her take on the USDA’s 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Nicole is a board-certified specialist in pediatric nutrition and has worked with hundreds of children with chronic medical conditions, food allergies, picky eating, oral-motor and sensory processing disorders, breastfeeding, gastrointestinal conditions, prematurity and obesity.


Every five years, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the USDA revise their Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines advise Americans on what to eat and drink to meet nutrient needs, achieve optimal health, and prevent disease. For the first time, the Guidelines include nutritional advice on how to best feed babies & toddlers under two years old. This is great news for all parents and caregivers!  As a nation, we are finally ready to acknowledge what babies eat matters.

Importantly, this new USDA report shows that some breastfed babies under one do not receive enough key nutrients, and that children between one and two years eat too much added sugar, saturated fat, and sodium, and too few vegetables, whole grains, and seafood. We have work to do – and it must start with baby’s first bites.

crave sugar

11 Key Dietary Guidelines for Babies and Toddlers 


  1. 🤱🏽 Breastfeed, if Possible:

    Exclusively feed babies breast milk for the six months of life and continue breastfeeding through the first year of life, if possible. If human milk is not available, use iron-fortified formula.

  2. 💊 Supplement Vitamin D:

    Provide breastfed infants with supplemental 400 IU daily of vitamin D. Formula-fed infants may not require vitamin D supplements. Please discuss with your child’s healthcare provider if vitamin D supplementation is needed.

  3. 🍎 Start Feeding Solids Around Six Months:

    Introduce nutrient-dense foods at about six months of age, depending on your baby’s developmental signs of readiness. It is not recommended to introduce solid foods before four months of age or delay introducing them beyond six months. Unfortunately, according to a 2018 report in The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, almost one-third of babies in the U.S. are introduced to foods before four months. The “below one is just for fun” motto, saying solid foods are not needed before a child turns one, is now outdated!

  4. ❌ Avoid Choking Hazards:

    Infants should be given age and developmentally appropriate foods to prevent choking, sit upright during meals, and always be supervised by an adult. Avoid feeding foods that might be choking hazards, such as hot dogs, candy, nuts, raw carrots, grapes, popcorn, and chunks of peanut butter. Never add infant cereals into baby bottles.

  5. 🥜 Introduce Food Allergens Early:

    Introduce infants to potentially allergenic foods, when beginning to feed them solid foods. There is no evidence that support delaying their introduction to allergenic foods. A study found that introducing peanut-containing foods before one may reduce your baby’s risk of developing an allergy to peanuts. The most common allergenic foods in the U.S. are eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc.), cow’s milk, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish. Prior to introducing food allergens, please contact your child’s pediatrician to discuss if your child is at risk for allergies and needs allergy-specific testing(See more here on allergies)

  6. 🥩 Iron and Zinc are Critical:

    Introduce iron and zinc-rich foods around 6 months, especially to breastfed babies, who are more likely to need these nutrients than formula-fed babies from solid foods. Some iron rich foods include iron fortified cereals, meats, and seafood. Some zinc rich foods include meats, beans, and zinc-fortified cereals. Iron and zinc are critical for babies’ immune function, growth, and neurological development. Learn more here.

  7. 🧀  Introduce Cheese & Yogurt, but Delay Cow’s Milk:

    Cow’s milk should not be introduced as a drink until your child is one year old, but cow’s milk products, such as yogurt and cheese, should be introduced as part of food allergen exposures, during baby’s first year. Calcium needs increase after one year, so most dairy products or unsweetened, fortified soy beverages and yogurts are foods to encourage early on.

  8. 🌈  Eat the Rainbow. Train Babies’ Taste Buds:

    Encourage infants and toddlers to consume a variety of nutritionally dense foods from all food groups to meet nutritional needs during this period of critical growth and development. Babies and toddlers eat such small quantities, every bite needs to count. Encourage a variety of animal and plant-based proteins, dairy, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats like omega 3’s from low-mercury-containing seafood, nuts, seeds and oils to support brain development. Additionally, foods introduced during the first year can influence later food choices and preferences. (It may take multiple exposures to food before a baby will accept certain foods.)

  9. 🍬 Avoid Added Sugar Until Two:

    Limit all foods with any added sugar through the first two years of life  as well as foods high in sodium, unpasteurized foods, and honey until age one.

  10. 🧃 Hold Off Juice:

    Establish a healthy beverage pattern by encouraging water after six months. Before one year, avoid all juice, even 100% fruit or vegetable juice. After one year, limit juice to four ounces of 100% fruit juice. Avoid all sugar-sweetened drinks like soda and sports drinks, flavored milks, sweetened toddler drinks, and most plant-based milk alternatives that are not nutritionally equivalent to cow’s milk.

  11. ✋🏼 Follow Their Lead:

    Feed children using a “responsive” feeding style, which emphasizes recognizing and responding to hunger or fullness cues of children. This can help young children learn to regulate their own needs and intakes. Signs that children are hungry are putting hands in mouths, reaching, or pointing to food, and opening mouths when offered food. Signs that children are full include closing mouth, turning head away and pushing food away. Learn more here

every bite counts

Nicole is the creator of Tiny Tasters, a series of on-demand and live classes that teach parents everything they need to know about how to feed their babies and toddlers. Prior to her current roles she was a clinical nutritionist at the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia and at NYU Langone/Fink Children’s Ambulatory Care Center. Nicole lives in New York with her husband and her toddlers, Lily and Luna! 

To read more about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-20205, click here.