baby being spoon fed
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Start Solids at 4-6 Months

That's the recommended time to introduce solid foods. But it's not just about age. Before starting solids, your baby should be able to sit up (with support), turn his head away, and make chewing motions. He should also be past the reflex that makes him spit out anything including liquids.

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Baby being fed with a bottle
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Keep Going With Breast Milk or Formula

Babies usually don't eat a lot of solid foods right away. So think of solids as something you’re adding to your baby's diet, not as a replacement for breast milk or formula. Remember, you're introducing solid foods, not totally changing your baby's diet or eliminating milk. That will happen gradually.

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Bowl of rice cereal with baby spoon
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Why Start With Rice Cereal?

You don’t have to -- there's no hard-and-fast rule about what solid foods you should start your baby on first. in fact, you don't have to start with cereal at all. But if you do, try a single-grain, iron-fortified infant cereal with a neutral to no flavor. It also will be a bit easier to notice any food allergies than with a cereal made from several grains. You may want to mix it with formula or breast milk to get a runny consistency at first, so it's not a drastic change for your baby. Gradually thicken it more until your baby gets used to the new texture.

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Close-up of baby spoon in baby's mouth
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Eating Solids Takes Practice

It may seem like it’s something natural, but being fed by a spoon is new to your baby. Up until now, she’s only had a liquid diet. She’ll need practice to get used to the spoon and to the feel of having solid food in her mouth. So don't expect her to eat a whole lot -- maybe a teaspoon or two at a time -- when you start. Instead of trying to get her to eat a certain amount, focus on letting her get used to the experience.

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Four spoons of baby food on checkered tablecloth
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Start Fruits and Vegetables, One at a Time

Fruits, vegetables, grains, and even pureed meats can all be on the menu for your baby. You may want to introduce them one at a time to see how your little one reacts to the flavor and texture and to make sure no allergies develop. If your baby won't eat them at first, try again later. Babies need to reject a food at least 5 to 10 times on different occasions before you can truly say they don't like the food. Tell your pediatrician if you think your baby might have any food allergies to any new foods tried. Use soft baby food from a jar, or soften foods by heating and/or pureeing them. Put just enough on the spoon for your baby to swallow easily.  Don't force feed the food. 

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Milk and honey
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Avoid Milk and Honey

Most pediatricians say you should wait until after your baby's first birthday to start offering cow's milk. That’s because some babies may have a hard time digesting it before then. And, don't give honey to babies younger than 1 year. That’s because of a possible botulism risk that a baby's developing immune system can't fend off.

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Baby staring off into space with baby food
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Stop When Baby's Ready to Stop

Your baby will let you know when he’s done eating. He might swat at the spoon, turn his head away, zip his lips tightly, spit out whatever you put in his mouth, or cry. Don't make him eat more than he wants. Kids will eat when they're hungry and stop when they're full. Honoring those instincts may help them avoid overeating now and when they get older.

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Father trying to feed crying baby
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Got a Fussy Eater? Don't Fret

Just because your baby doesn't immediately like a new food doesn't mean he’s doomed to be picky forever. Wait a few days and try again. And again. And again … It may take your child more than a couple of times before she’s ready to give peas a chance. Remember, you're a role model, so your baby may be more interested in foods she sees you eating and enjoying. But don't force your child to eat, and don't make a big deal about new foods.

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Messy baby with bowl in highchair
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It's Going to Get Messy

As your baby grows, he'll try to feed himself. Chances are, a good bit of food is heading for his face, hands, hair, bib, clothes, or high chair tray -- not to mention you or any surfaces within flinging range. Learning to eat solid food is a full-body, tactile experience for your baby. Put a mat underneath his highchair to catch some of the mess, dress accordingly, and be patient -- this phase won't last forever.

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3 month old in stroller eating cereal
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Try Finger Foods When Baby's Ready

Around 9 months or so, your baby will be able to pick up small pieces of soft table food to eat. You'll still need to spoon-feed for a while, and continue formula or breast milk. Some great "finger foods" include ripe banana pieces, cooked chunks of carrots, cottage cheese, well-cooked pasta, dry cereal, and scrambled eggs. Avoid choking hazards like hard candy, chips, raw vegetables, grapes or raisins, hard cheese, and whole hot dogs.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 10/18/2016 Reviewed by Amita Shroff, MD on October 18, 2016

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

(1)    Getty Images
(2)    Image100
(3)    Image Source
(4)    Corbis
(5)    Image Source
(6)    Creativ Studio Heinemann / Westend61
(7)    Corbis
(8)    Eric Audras / Onoky
(9)    Christa Renee / Stone
(10)  Charles Gullung / Photonica

REFERENCES:

American Academy of Pediatrics: "Parenting Corner Q&A: Starting Solid Foods," "How Do I Know if My Child is Eating Enough?" "Vitamin D Deficiency Clinical Report: Patient FAQs."
FDA: "Food Safety for Moms to Be: Once Baby Arrives," "When Should Solid Foods Be Added to a Baby's Diet?"
KidsHealth.org: "Finer Foods for Babies."

Reviewed by Amita Shroff, MD on October 18, 2016

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.