By Heather Pohlabel
It's awfully confusing as to when to introduce your baby to solid foods, how much to give her, what to give her, and who to believe. Many experts agree that the first food for babies should be rice cereal because it is not only given quite frequently by parents in their children's bottles, but it is basically taste free and the most gentle food on their tiny, sensitive stomachs.
Look high and low, and you will probably read somewhere that the best way to introduce your baby to solids is with a rice cereal that is diluted 1/4 - 1/5. The "magic recipe" is one tablespoon of rice cereal to four or five tablespoons of breast milk, formula, or water, so that the cereal is a runny consistency. This should be fed with a spoon to acclimate your baby to the spoon. You will add more cereal to thicken the mixture as your baby gets used to eating, but never make it too thick (like an oatmeal consistency). A pudding consistency is a great guide as to when to stop adding cereal.
Many parents try to start their babies on solids around four months of age, but experts agree that babies can wait much longer - eight to ten months in some cases before starting solid foods. I personally think that is too long, but all of my children were hungry and ready for baby food around four months old.
I decided it was time to feed solids when the formula didn't seem to be enough. My second child had a voracious appetite, as does my third baby, but it seemed there was no way to satisfy her. She would stare at our food when we ate and make noises; so very soon, she had joined us at the table!
We started out with the cereal and then gradually added fruits to the rice cereal - bananas, peaches, and applesauce - all the wonderfully packaged "first foods". By six months, she was in stage two foods, eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, and some meats. She still had her bottles of formula, but they were larger and spread out a bit more.
My third baby is now three months old and reminds me very much of her sister. I keep reassuring her as she stares at us and protests that she, too, will get to enjoy yummy foods very soon. I actually tried feeding her some cereal just in case she was ready, but she was not quite ready yet. She did not take to the spoon at all and became very angry. That was a sure sign she was not ready to move on.
I did not force her, and experts agree that it is best to move at baby's pace. Not only at what age they will grow into foods, but how quickly or slowly they eat! Again, both of my daughters with their voracious appetites downed their bottles quite quickly and noisily. My second daughter swallowed food like it was her job. We have yet to see how the baby will do, but however she does it, I need to move at her pace.
When your baby is ready to move on, however, it is suggested to start with just one feeding at first until your baby gets the hang of it and seems ready for another serving later in the day. It is also recommended that when introducing new foods, to introduce them one at a time and wait about three days between each new food to monitor how your baby responds to the food. You can easily spot food allergies and likes and dislikes if you are only dealing with one food at a time.
Cow's mild still should not be given to your baby until after one year of age, but yogurt and pasteurized cheese are ok to introduce when your baby is over eight months of age. At this time, you can also introduce cottage cheese, eggs, and tofu.
Jarred or fresh baby fruits and vegetables are always a safe bet, though. These can easily transition to finger foods as well, as your baby has already become acclimated to the taste. Watch out for preservatives. There are many organic foods available for the more health conscious parents.
Like everything with your baby, try to enjoy feeding time and make it fun for both you and your baby. Give her praise when she tries something new or gives you clues as to what she likes or does not like. If you are unsure, consult with your pediatrician before introducing solids.