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Introducing Solid Food

When your baby is about six months old you should begin introducing solid food into her diet. When she was younger, all your baby's caloric and nutritional needs were met by breast milk or formula and her digestive system was too immature to handle solid foods. However, around this age babies' iron requirements increase and surpass that which breast milk or formula alone can provide and many babies become developmentally ready to start solid foods. You'll know your baby is ready when she shows an interest in adult food (she may watch you intently while you eat and try to reach for some of what you have), sits well while supported, holds her head steady, and has lost the "extrusion reflex," which causes her to push food out of her mouth.

Rice cereal is a good first food for your baby because it is gentle on her sensitive digestive system and is less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Start introducing the rice cereal just once a day, whenever it is convenient for you. Even if your baby doesn’t eat much at first, just give her time to get used to the sensation. Nurse or bottle-feed her first, and then give her one or two teaspoons of cereal mixed with enough formula or breast milk to make a thin, runny consistency. Keep in mind that your baby hasn't had anything but milk since birth and if the cereal is too thick, she may gag. It may also take a while for your baby to get used to eating from a spoon rather than a nipple. Try using rubber-coated baby spoons rather than hard metal ones which can bump tender, teething gums and make feedings a painful experience.

It will take a little time for your baby to learn how to move the cereal from the front of her mouth to the back of her throat because swallowing a solid requires a different motion than sucking a liquid. She will initially try to suck at the cereal and her tongue will push half of it back out, but she will quickly catch on. Once she gets used to the idea and begins eating more than she spits out, increase the amount of cereal to a few tablespoons each day. Gradually thicken the consistency of the cereal and then add another feeding each day. Your baby should be able to eat about one half cup of thick cereal each day before you add other solid food.

Once your baby is eating the rice cereal well and isn't showing any sign of allergic reaction (such as a rash), try introducing some mashed or strained fruits and vegetables. Introduce one fruit or vegetable at a time and stick with it for a few days before introducing another. By doing this, you can identify which food causes an allergic reaction, if one occurs.

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