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Starting Baby on Solid Food: 6 Dos and Don'ts

Alexandra Grablewski

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Real food, baby!

Skip the white rice cereal. Start with an avocado, a banana, or a sweet potato (cooked until soft). Let your baby see, handle, and smell the food first. Mash some up. Add some breast milk or formula to thin your baby's portion. Or start with whole-grain porridges, such as oatmeal or brown rice cereal. Even meat or egg yolk mixed with the cereal or pureed veggies. Start when your baby is clearly asking for some of your food (leaning forward, staring longingly, becoming excited while watching you eat)—which you'll probably notice at about 6 months.

Plus: 13 Great First Finger Foods

Table for three?

Eat family meals together from the first bite, including some of the same food: baby-food you like or you-food baby will like. End each meal as soon as your baby loses interest. Looking bored means “stop,” not “just one more bite.”

Add variety and spice now, not later.

The time between starting solids and starting to walk is a special window when it's easiest to accept new foods. Historically, children might have toddled away and picked a berry or leaf that was dangerous, so toddlers are wired to be suspicious of new foods.

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Waiting three to five days between foods: Just say no.

The secret truth is: Introducing new foods rapidly—and feeding mixtures of foods—leads to more adventurous, happy eaters. If your baby seems to be tolerating the foods well, go for it!

Delaying certain foods: Don't!

Babies' immune systems are trying to learn what is normal and what to react against later. There's no good evidence for delaying any food beyond 6 months to decrease allergy risk—and there is some evidence that the opposite may be true. I do recommend avoiding highly allergenic foods when kids are on antibiotics or have a tummy illness. And you must keep your baby away from choking hazards or foods that might carry infections (such as raw or undercooked fish, meat, or eggs). But otherwise, experience trumps fear.

Giving up: Sad!

It takes an average of six to ten tries before a baby likes an unfamiliar bitter or sour food. Yet studies show up to 94 percent of parents gave up on foods before six tries, and only one or two in a hundred would try ten times. If she doesn't like peas today, try again soon, and again after that.

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