8-12 months is really the homestretch of the introduction of solids (diversification, as the French call it). Baby is starting to eat more and more like us (or in our case, we started eating more and more like him!)
(Usual caveat: I am not a nutritionist just sharing how I went about things with my son, so do check with your pediatrician and obviously take into account any allergies in your family.)
1. New stuff
Between 8 and 10 months, I continued with the vegetable and vegetable & protein purees, trying any new vegetable I could find and think of. In addition, I started introducing (one at a time of course):
Yogurt. I cannot emphasize enough to stick with plain yogurt for as long as possible. Yo Baby does have plain (though it can unfortunately be hard to find.). Otherwise, homemade yogurt made from organic whole milk with added DHA, will do the trick. My yogurt maker was the best 40$ I ever spent. Alternatively, organic plain whole milk yogurt works fine, provided baby doesn’t have any intolerance to cow’s milk. If it’s a bit tough to digest at first, try sheep’s or goat’s milk yogurt, easier on the stomach. Bellwether Farms has a wonderful sheep’s milk yogurt I get all the time, creamy and great to replace cream in soups or dressings. At first I gave it just plain, remembering that for as much as babies may like strong-tasting things, they also can appreciate very subtle flavors.
I think I waited until about 10 months to introduce fruit yogurt, and never at night. For plain or fruit, I gave a few spoons at first, and let him decide on how much he wanted.
I started giving a bit of yogurt as dessert at the end of lunch. Then at the end of dinner. And started giving plain Greek yogurt, higher in protein, for breakfast, along with a cereal (oatmeal usually, or ancient grains) and fresh fruit.
Cheese. Could be considered the cornerstone of French foods. We certainly enjoy it a lot in our family. It really is a perfect finger food when they start practicing the pincer grasp around 8-9 months, easy to gum down. I started with medium soft cheeses like Petit Basque (sheep), Goat Gouda, Gruyère, Babybel. I tried to steer away from string cheese which is quite tasteless, and go with flavorful cheeses. I offered them after the main course, in keeping with French tradition.
Organic Bread (more around 10 months), in very small quantities, multigrain/multicereal, for breakfast.
Pasta, also in limited quantities, no more than twice a week. I got organic vegetable noodles, which made easy finger foods.
Rice, quinoa, couscous (10 months +), in limited quantities also either as a side, warm (with just a bit of butter), or mixed in a salad with some vinaigrette.
A note on these: I really steered away from mixing these (as well as the pasta) with the vegetable purees. The French will eat them often just plain, without drenching them in sauce. I’m a big believer of enjoying each food (and for that it must be good quality), on its own. A bowl of plain rice or quinoa (or pasta for that matter) is delicious on its own with a dab of butter, and doesn’t need to be drowned in something else. It was also about getting Pablo to know what he’s eating (not some mushy mix), to experience different textures. So I might serve it to him next to a baby puree, so he can differentiate flavors and textures. Enjoy each food for what it is.
Legumes – beans, lentils. Beans (all kinds) make a really great finger food for pincer grasp practice. We particularly like cannelloni beans and black beans. Introduced lentils around 10 months (warm or cold with vinaigrette). Also separate for vegetable purees (see note above)
Egg yolk. On its own as protein, along with a vegetable puree. I started egg white inside cooked preparations around 10-11 months. It actually turns out Pablo has a mild allergy to egg white, it gives him hives, unless it’s very well cooked, like in a custard. I keep giving him egg yolk probably about once a week.
Raw tomato. This is somewhat debated, and it really depends on your child. I started giving raw tomato to Pablo around 9 months, peeling it (plunging it in boiling water for 5 seconds helps a lot). He digested it fine and loved it, so I continued. Some say it’s too acidic for baby, so it’s a matter of trying and watching for any reaction.
Raw fruit – Around 10 months, I started introducing raw raspberry for breakfast, then blueberries (Though he spit out the skin for a while… Peeling blueberries, O what fun!), then strawberries. After that, I offered almost all fruits raw, peeled if needed, except for apples (hard to chew). Watermelon, peach/nectarine, apricot (took a few tries, because of texture), cherries, cantaloupe, etc. Citrus I introduced in the form of fresh orange or grapefruit juice (a few sips, from a cup, good way to help them learn to drink out of a cup), between 10-12 months. I would let him suck on a lemon wedge too, he enjoyed that (being careful about seeds).
[I continued with the steamed fruit compotes for snack time as well.]
2. Our meals
So with all that in mind and all these doors open, the 4 course family meal as I’ve described here, starts to take shape around 8-10 months:
First course – A vegetable appetizer that works also a finger food and an opportunity for baby to self-feed: Cut up tomato, beans, small vegetable noodles, cooked cauliflower, cooked green beans, cooked zucchini, cooked asparagus tips, cooked potato or yam, cooked beets are some examples. Vegetables that are easy to gum down for baby, and which he can practice grabbing with his hands / fingers. (I waited until he got that down to introduce crunchier and/or raw vegetables, probably more around 10-12 months, such as cucumber, hearts of palm, cooked broccoli, endives, olives, pickles…)
Main course – Protein puree, or protein + vegetable puree as outlined in here. Around 9 months, I started offering easy to gum down proteins such as canned sardines, lean ham, or even lean hamburger patty (in very small quantities (0.5-1 oz), along with a vegetable only puree.
The fact that he could eat the finger foods himself enabled me to spoon-feed him most of his puree, while letting him play with his spoon and participate if he wanted to.
While doing that, I paid close attention to feeding him slowly and to see whether he was getting full and following those cues carefully (if he turned his head or rejected, I stopped).
Cheese course, a few small pieces offered, as finger goods.
The lettuce salad we usually have after the meal, I offered a taste closer to 12 months as it’s hard to chew/gum down (if it’s too thin). Around 12 months, I started offering him a taste of crunchy types of salad to taste (endives, romaine, with vinaigrette). At first he would chew and spit out (a texture thing, I think). After a few months, he started to actually eat the whole thing.
Yogurt for dessert, a few spoonfuls offered. (Plain for dinner, with fruit at lunch)
3. Other notes
All meats must still be pureed at 8 months (though depending on baby’s teeth and ability to gum food down, you can start mixing it a bit less finely), but I found the introduction of finger foods really helped getting him used to chunkier textures. Watch your child for his ability to gum down and chew food and give accordingly. I know, for example, I waited until about 11 months to give Pablo cucumber, until I was sure he could chew it properly. It’s key to evaluate how baby handles different textures, if he tends to choke on certain things, or spit them out.
Quantities offered: finger food appetizer (small handful) + 2-3 oz purees + finger food cheese + a few spoons of yogurt. This can really vary from child to child, from day to day, from meal to meal. I followed Pablo’s cues as much as possible. I kept the protein quantity to a max of 0.5 to 1 oz per meal.
What I did NOT give before 12 months: Honey, shellfish or raw fish, unground meats (too hard to chew), chocolate or candy (introduced chocolate around 15 mo), whole nuts (choking hazard until 18 mo at least, check with your ped on those – I did however introduce almond butter, and my pediatrician said it was ok to introduce any nut butter – including peanut – around 10 months. We’re not big peanut butter eaters though)