Is your baby ready?Most doctors agree that you should wait until your baby is at least 4 to 6 months old and can hold her head steady in an upright position before you introduce solid foods.
Serve up riceThe American Academy of Pediatrics says iron-fortified rice cereal is a good choice for baby's first solid food. That's because iron-fortified rice is easily digested, provides the iron your baby needs, and can be readily diluted to a thin consistency with breastmilk or infant formula. Rice is also the least likely to cause an allergic reaction as compared to other grains. The next cereals to try are oatmeal and barley. Offer mixed cereal only after your baby has sampled all of the single-grain cereals.
A solid startCheck with your baby's doctor before starting any solid foods, but once you've decide it's time, ease into the routine slowly. A few days before you introduce solid foods, let your baby become comfortable at the table with your family. Hold her in your lap, place her in a bouncy baby chair nearby, or let her sit in a high chair. This tells your baby mealtime is special.
Set the stage for baby's first mealFor your first attempt to feed baby with a spoon, pick a time of day when baby is in good spirits, wide awake and mildly hungry. A famished baby won't have the patience to try those first spoonfuls of food. Try solid food for the first time whenever your baby is most willing to eat slowly.
Pick a time of day that works for you, too. Perhaps a quiet weekend morning is best so you don't need to worry about rushing through a feeding before or after work. If you're breastfeeding, select the time of day when you sense your milk supply is at its lowest level.
Before you start, breastfeed your baby or give her a bottle so she won't be fussy. Don't reduce the time you spend nursing or the ounces of breastmilk or formula you offer. This assures you your baby is still getting adequate nourishment for growth, regardless of how much -- and which -- solid food she eats.
Position the high chair near the table. If you think it's necessary, lay a drop cloth or a few sheets of newspaper around the high chair to catch any drips. Cover your baby's clothes with a large, washable bib. (You may want to wear old clothes or an apron, as well.) Use a small baby-size spoon that's coated with plastic to protect baby's tender gums.
To feed baby:
- Mix the cereal soupy at first. One teaspoon of cereal to 3 or 4 teaspoons of breastmilk or iron-fortified formula is a good place to start. As baby gets accustomed to the texture of the cereal, you can gradually make the cereal mixture thicker.
- Because baby will probably try to grab the spoon anyway, place a dab of cereal on your baby's high-chair tray so she can "finger paint" with it and become familiar with its texture before you start feeding.
- Give baby 1 to 2 teaspoons at first. Don't put the cereal in a bottle because this can cause baby to choke and doesn't teach her to eat from a spoon.
- Don't be surprised if baby's first taste pops right back out on her tongue. It's a natural reflex. You may even want to use your finger instead of a spoon early on. Eventually baby will swallow more than she spits out.
- Offer solid food at one feeding a day and stick to this routine for a few days or a week, until your baby eats several tablespoonfuls of cereal. Then add another feeding each day of the same cereal.