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Baby Bites

Timing It Right

Your baby will be ready for her first taste of solids at about 6 months. By then, she'll have lost her tongue-thrust reflex, which makes her push anything that isn't liquid out of her mouth, and her stomach will have developed enough to handle solid foods better.

Although some pediatricians suggest starting as early as 4 months, a baby's less likely to develop an allergy if you give her digestive system more time to mature. And there's a lower chance of interfering with nursing (some babies might prefer pureed peas to Mom's milk). In the beginning, solids aren't meant to replace the breast or bottle; except for a little iron (found in rice cereal), infants get all the nutrients they need from formula or breast milk, and table foods are more of an extra. Over time, your baby will drink less often and less enthusiastically from the breast or bottle, which is fine.

Experts say that parents shouldn't wait any longer than 6 months to start solids, either. This is the time when babies are interested -- you may see your infant curiously eyeing your dinner or opening her mouth as if she'd like a little bite. It's a window of willingness that won't last forever, says Tom Jaksic, M.D., a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics's committee on nutrition. "As babies grow," he says, "they become more set in their ways and less open to new experiences."