Dr. Kimberly Manning: Once babies begin eating solid foods, it's time to establish healthy choices that will last a lifetime. We have some simple guidelines – step by step. What foods should you start with? For many years the rule was always baby cereal. Now, that's changing. Research shows soft fruits or vegetables are fine as first choices. Present just one food at a time and stick with it for a few days to see how baby reacts. If you notice any sign of diarrhea, rash or vomiting – eliminate that food until you talk with your pediatrician. Get guidance on the best time to start eggs and fish – new medical evidence suggests there may be no link between the age they are introduced and whether a child develops allergies. There are a myriad of prepared and dehydrated baby foods on the market – many labeled as organic and preservative free. But an increasing number of parents today opt to make their own by mashing or pureeing fresh foods into a safe consistency. All – except for naturally soft foods like bananas or avocados – should be thoroughly cooked. Never add salt. Always refrigerate unused portions and check leftovers carefully for contamination to prevent food poisoning. After a few months on solids, your baby's diet should still include breast milk or formula in addition to three daily meals: a mix of cereal, meats, fruits and vegetables – in a wide array of colors. As your baby grows and is able to sit up independently, offer finger foods, when you can supervise. Never, ever leave baby unattended. Most babies begin to feed themselves at about eight months. Make sure the selections are small, soft, break easily into bits and pose no choking hazard. Do not give your little one anything that requires chewing – even after teeth! Infants do not need juice. It's a hard habit to break and can eventually lead to tooth decay and childhood obesity. Small sips of water – several times a day if it's hot – generally suffice until age one. Remember – you should never limit an infant's food intake over concerns about obesity in the first year of life. Talk to your pediatrician before making any dietary adjustments. And ask about nutritional supplements – some doctors recommend vitamin D or iron depending on baby's overall diet and whether baby is bottle or breast fed. It won't be long before baby joins the family for table food. Charting the right course for health – and enjoyment – begins step by step. For WebMD, I'm Dr. Kimberly Manning.
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