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Baby Feeding Tips: 4- to 6-months

Your baby's first meals should be an easy introduction to solid foods. Offer just one food at a time to start. It need not be bland, but it should be easy to digest. Whatever the food, puree it well and thin it to a runny, liquid consistency with breast milk, formula, or water.

How to Start
Although fortified rice cereal is traditionally recommended as an ideal first food because it's easy to digest, unlikely to trigger allergies, and a good source of iron, it's fine to offer other foods first. In fact, if your baby has been exclusively breastfed, consider meat; it's a particularly rich source of iron and zinc. A baby's stores of these minerals are depleted by 6 months, and breast milk alone doesn't supply enough of them. Some parents swear by fruit as a first food; it's sweet like breast milk and can be an easy transition. Ask your doctor whether she prefers a specific schedule or pattern.

Pick a time when your little one is in a happy mood -- right before the second feeding of the day is a good possibility. Take the edge off her hunger with a short nursing session or a small bottle. Start with a dollop of food on a fingertip; after a few days, increase the meal to a teaspoon and eventually a tablespoon. Don't worry if most of it dribbles down her chin--for the time being, she's getting used to the new flavor and texture.

How to Progress
After a few days of the first food with no adverse reaction, go on to another food. On the menu are single-grain baby cereals like oatmeal and barley, pureed fruits and veggies, and pureed meats--feed a spoonful or two once a day.

According to a recent Babytalk poll, pureed fruit is the first mush of choice for most parents. Here are current favorite first foods, ranked in order of popularity:

1 bananas
2 sweet potatoes
3 apples
4 carrots
5 peas
6 squash
7 green beans
8 pears

From Love in Spoonfuls, Parenting's recipe book of fast and easy ways to make nutritious food for your baby.

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