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Tips for Starting Your Baby on Solid Food
Babies need to be physiologically ready to swallow and digest foods, says Dr. Martin Sherman, a pediatrician with Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Meyers, Fla.
"Some babies who are hesitant are not developmentally ready," he says.
Typically, babies are able to handle solid foods between 4 and 6 months old, Sherman says.
"If you try too young, they can't figure out what to do with (the food) in their mouths," adds Amanda Wodzisz, a nurse and supervisor at the Primary Care Clinic at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
If the baby seems uninterested in solid food, wait a few days or a week and try again.
Doctors used to tell parents to give babies cereal as their first food, but they're becoming less strict about that, Sherman says.
"There's very little reason to do that," he says, adding that it's OK to start with fruits or vegetables.
The more important thing is to offer one food for three or four days without introducing something new. Doing this helps parents detect whether their child has a food allergy, he says.
Give solid foods before breast-feeding or offering the child a bottle, Wodzisz says. She also suggests making sure the first foods are thin and that you always use a spoon. A typical first meal would be a few tablespoons of watery cereal, she says, and solid foods can be offered at any time of the day. As babies become used to eating a solid meal, you can offer one several times a day.
As the baby's food intake increases, his milk intake will decrease, Martin says. A baby's milk intake could decrease from about 32 ounces a day at 6 months to about 12 to 16 ounces at 1 year, he says.
And don't be discouraged if your baby starts to seem like a picky eater as he or she gets older, Wodzisz says.
"You have to introduce foods 10 to 15 times before they like it," she says. "It takes multiple exposures."