For the first several months, the only nourishment baby needs is found in breast milk or formula. Most studies show that introducing other foods prior to the fourth month may increase the baby’s chances of developing allergies. But studies also suggest that by the six month of life baby is probably ready for something more than milk or formula. Exactly when you start baby on food is up to you and your baby’s readiness. Regardless of when you introduce food, formula or breast milk remains the baby’s main source of nourishment until at least one year of age.
Introducing foods to babies is more for baby to learn new textures and tastes than it is for nourishment. However, adding rice cereal to baby’s diet may help him feel fuller and sleep better through the night. Some parent never feed babies baby food and start with table food immediately. In order to start solid foods baby should be able to hold up his head, sit up with or without help, take food off a spoon, and make a chewing motion.
You should only introduce one new food per week. This allows you time to see if your baby will have any adverse reactions to the food. It’s also to introduce foods several times before giving up and deciding baby will not eat it. Do not season baby food, especially with sugar or salt. Never add food to a feeding bottle, unless there is a medical reason; babies should be fed with a spoon from the beginning.
Start with a rice cereal mixed with breast milk or formula. Only a few bites the first few nights are necessary. Rice cereal is easily digested and adds bulk to baby’s diet. Other cereals, or rice cereals mixed with fruits, can be tried after baby is used to rice cereal.
Always introduce vegetables before fruits. Fruits are very sweet and babies who are introduced to these first often will refuse to eat vegetables. Carrots and squash are good vegetables to start as they are sweeter than other vegetables. But, for the same reason fruits aren’t introduced first, green vegetables should be introduced soon to prevent baby only eating sweet vegetables.
After your baby is eating green vegetables well you can add fruits. Do not offer baby citrus fruits at this point as they often cause allergic reactions. Fruit juice is not a substitute for fruit. Juice should only be given through a cup, never the bottle.
If you choose to make your own baby food, it should be mashed into a soft texture easily swallowed. When buying baby food be sure to read the labels and avoid foods with additives; there are plenty of organic baby foods available as well. You should not give your baby peanut butter, grapes, or other foods that are choking hazards; nor should you give a baby honey. It’s a fun time for baby and for you, so enjoy it.