When your baby first starts solids, offer him 1 to 2 tablespoons of food once a day, then add a second meal after he's responded well for a week or two.
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Breast milk or formula will still be his primary source of nutrition. As he gets closer to age 1, solids become more vital, delivering important nutrients and helping establish his lifelong food preferences. Try these menu ideas from Eileen Behan, RD, author of The Baby Food Bible.
8 to 11 months: Dinner
2 tablespoons pureed veggie, 1 to 2 tablespoons pureed meat (like chicken or beef), 1 tablespoon finger food such as tiny pieces of pineapple, ripe peaches, mango, or diced banana.
12 to 24 months: Breakfast
1 slice of toasted whole-grain bread, 1 egg (cooked any style), 6 sliced grapes, plus 2 ounces milk. Snack: half a banana (sliced), plus 2 ounces milk.
12 to 24 months: Lunch
2 whole-grain crackers, 1 slice cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup soft-cooked, small broccoli florets, 2 ounces milk.
Snack: 1/4 cup whole-grain cereal, 1/4 cup small, ripe melon chunks.
Your baby can get all the hydration she needs from breast milk or formula, but you should still offer a sippy cup of water at mealtime after she reaches 6 months to get her accustomed to drinking from a cup -- and the taste of plain water. Go easy on the juice, which can lead to cavities and is linked to diarrhea in toddlers. After age 1, be sure she drinks about two cups of water each day.
Originally published in the June 2009 issue of Parents magazine.