Given babies’ rapid growth in the first two years, they need a significantly more protein-dense diet than adults do. In their first year, your baby needs one gram of protein per pound of body weight. When they are 12 to 15 months old, that amount decreases to ½ gram of protein per pound of body weight.
For your baby’s first 12 months, breast milk or formula is their main source of protein, but you can start incorporating some soft protein-rich foods after six months. Cooked tofu at six to eight months is easy to digest as a first protein-rich food. Dried beans that are cooked and pureed, including lentils, chickpeas, and adzuki beans, along with cooked and ground seeds, such as sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin, can be introduced at seven to eight months.
At nine months, you can offer your baby whole milk yogurt or kefir. Tempeh can be offered at one year, and if you plan on giving them animal foods, you can introduce fish, eggs, and cheese at this time. At 18 months (about 1 and a half years), when they can chew well, chicken or turkey may be an option for your baby. At 24 months (about 2 years), if you are confident that they do not have a nut allergy, you can begin offering peanuts and peanut butter.
When introducing protein-rich foods, only offer one type of protein at a time, as mixing proteins in the same meal can cause digestive problems. Over time, you will find combinations of protein-rich foods, grains, and vegetables that fulfill your child’s nutritional needs and satisfy their palate.
The following chart gives an overview of which proteins to introduce and when. The chart also includes how frequently to serve these proteins and which ones to avoid.
The content of this article originally appeared in Grow Healthy. Grow Happy. The Whole Baby Guide. The suggestions and ideas in this book are not intended to take the place of professional guidance or treatment; they are meant to complement the advice of your child's health care provider, caretakers, and educators, while offering consolidated information to help you develop your intuition and make choices that fit with your own personal, religious, or spiritual philosophies. There is no guarantee as to the effects of the use of the recommendations and no liabilities can be taken.