Open Wide (4 to 6 Months)
Although the American Academy of Pediatrics' section on breastfeeding supports exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, its committee on nutrition says that solids can be introduced between 4 and 6 months. Don't introduce solids before this age, however, because that can put your baby at increased risk for developing food allergies. Your doctor will help you determine exactly when your child is ready for food. He should be able to control his head and neck well, show signs when he's full (e.g., turning his head away from you or the bottle), and show interest in grown-up food. Every baby is different, so don't worry if your 4-month-old only wants breast milk or formula.
Start with an iron-fortified, single-grain cereal such as rice or oatmeal. Mix 2 to 3 tablespoonfuls of cereal with breast milk or formula to make a soupy-oatmeal consistency. Place your baby in an upright or semi-upright feeding chair or high chair and feed him the cereal twice a day using a baby spoon. Although you may have heard about parents putting cereal in a bottle, we want babies to eat their food, not drink it. It's a developmental accomplishment for a baby to learn to control his oral motor muscles to eat off a spoon. Don't worry if it all runs down his chin the first 10 times. He'll get the hang of it eventually, and in the meantime it makes for some great photo opportunities.
It's often helpful to feed baby solids between nursing sessions or bottle feedings, just so he can start and finish with something familiar. Breastfeed for a few minutes or give baby a few ounces from a bottle. This way he isn't starving but still has an appetite for solids. Then top off his meal by nursing or bottlefeeding again until he seems full. Once he gets used to spoonfeeding, he probably won't need to warm up with that familiar "appetizer." At this point, it's best to nurse or bottlefeed after solids or cereal.
Veggies & Fruit
By 6 months, you've got the green light to introduce strained baby food vegetables and fruit. He'll need two to three servings (2 to 4 tablespoonfuls) of each per day. (Same goes for a 6- to 9-month-old, although at this age he'll be meeting the upper end of the portion range.) There's no specific order to introducing each food. Just wait two to three days in between new foods. This way, if your baby develops a rash or a little upset stomach, you'll be able to pinpoint the cause. These symptoms may indicate an allergy or temporary intolerance, which you'll need to discuss with his doctor before giving the food again.
Don't be surprised if your baby has definite preferences or dislikes initially. It's very normal, but to create a healthy eater, continue to offer even those foods that he seems to turn his nose up to at first. You'll find that you have to offer some foods 15 to 20 times before your baby will begin to like it or even try it. The take-home message? Be patient!
Even after they start solids, babies between 4 and 6 months will still need 24 to 40 ounces of formula (this amount includes what you're mixing with baby's cereal) or 5 to 6 servings of breast milk per day (this doesn't include the expressed breast milk that's added to cereal).