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A Solid Foundation

Follow the Food Cues

Easy Does It

The most common starter food is rice cereal, mostly because it's easy to digest and because it's fortified with iron to supplement your baby's own dwindling supply. Begin with a quarter teaspoonful or less, mixed with breast milk or formula. For newbies, the thinner the mixture, the better.

In The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby -- From Birth To Two, William Sears, MD, suggests feeding your infant from your finger to start off, since it's soft, the right temperature, and familiar to your baby. When she becomes accustomed to the new food, graduate to a coated demitasse spoon with smooth, rounded edges.

Start offering solids at the time of day when baby seems hungriest so that he's eager to try something new. At first, expect a bewildered look (or even a flat-out rejection) and more food around the mouth than in it. "It's a new experience, so there will be some adjustment, even when they're ready," says Kessler.

Let your baby tell you when he's full; don't worry about over- or underfeeding. "Kids have a remarkable sense of what they need to eat at a very early age. Don't override those cues," says Kessler. Using a spoon (rather than putting formula-thinned cereal in a bottle, which pediatricians discourage) will also help reduce the risk of overeating and excessive weight gain.

The Spice Factor

Once your baby is used to cereal, slowly introduce other foods, such as strained vegetables (except corn, which is hard to digest before six months) and fruit. Hold off on meats, which are more difficult to digest, until about seven months.

Some doctors suggest offering vegetables before fruits since veggies aren't as sweet and are more apt to be rejected if the baby gets accustomed to fruits first. Hurlbut says she had better luck with the sweeter vegetables, like sweet potatoes. Also, mixing breast milk and rice cereal into green vegetables, like spinach, helped make them more palatable at first.

Try one food at a time, then wait about three days before introducing another. Introducing foods slowly will give your baby a chance to show an allergy to a particular food. Major culprits are cow's milk and egg whites (which aren't recommended for children under 1 year), peanuts, wheat, strawberries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, corn, and shellfish.

Offering an assortment of foods will help ensure a wider range of nutrients for your baby, as well as introducing him to a variety of tastes and textures. Avoid adding salt or sugar, though, or he might wind up developing an unhealthy taste for them.

Don't be alarmed if your infant's bowel movements change after starting solids. They typically become more solid, variable in color, have a stronger odor and may even contain bits of undigested food. If the stools are extremely loose, watery, or full of mucus, contact your doctor. These are signs that the digestive tract may be irritated.

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