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Health & Baby

A Solid Foundation

Follow the Food Cues
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  • She is able to indicate in some way that she's ready to be fed, such as opening her mouth when you touch a spoon to her lips.
  • He is able to eat sitting up and has the oral motor skills to move the food from the front of his mouth to the back and swallow.
  • She is able to signal when she's had enough, such as turning her head, showing displeasure, or using a hand to push the spoon away.
  • He shows a distinct interest in your food, grabbing at items on your plate or utensils.

If your little one doesn't seem ready, don't sweat it. Put the cereals back on the shelf, go back to breast- or bottle-feeding exclusively (which is all your baby needs nutritionally for the first six to nine months anyway), and try again in another week or two. It's more important that mealtimes are fun, rather than a battle.

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.

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