6 Months: The Experimental Stage
What to Feed
Baby's first solid food should be iron-fortified rice cereal mixed with enough breast milk or formula to create a liquid consistency, and fed with a spoon. Once he's accepted this, you can offer single-ingredient strained fruits and vegetables. Offer Baby about one-half of a teaspoonful of food at a time. At 7 to 9 months, you should add strained meats and poultry, and by 10 months, you can begin the transition to table food by offering teething biscuits for Baby to gum and mashed foods to introduce a little texture.
Making your own baby food is an option, but commercial baby food is safe and nutritious. Frank Greer, M.D., professor of pediatrics and nutritional sciences at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition, points out that one advantage to jarred baby food is that it's preserved. "Home preparations are not sterilized, so moms have to be careful to wash everything very well," he says. "Also, homemade baby food can't be kept around very long. If it hasn't been eaten after two days, throw it out."
During this time, breast milk or formula should make up the bulk of Baby's diet, meeting most of his nutritional needs. Continue your regular feedings throughout the first year while you gradually ease solids into your child's meals.
What's Going on at This Stage
The introduction of solids is a social learning exercise for Baby. "Children want to be part of the family unit, and eating together is important," says Althea Zanecosky, R.D., American Dietetic Association spokesperson and mother of two. "Sit Baby in a high chair and pull it up to the table. Even if he rejects the food you're trying that day, you're teaching him that food is a social activity. He'll learn that this is the time we put away the toys and we're all together."
What to Watch Out For
When introducing new foods, it's important to watch for signs of food intolerance. Offer Baby a small amount of one new food for several days before moving onto the next. If Baby is allergic, you'll see a rash, vomiting, or extremely loose stools. And never give babies under 12 months highly allergenic foods like eggs, nuts, honey, and citrus fruits.
Experts also advise that you pay attention to Baby's signals of hunger and fullness. By 6 months of age, an infant will show his desire to eat by opening his mouth and leaning forward. When Baby turns his face or mouth away, he's telling you he's done eating for now.