Let's Start Solids

That liquid diet worked nicely, but soon your tot will be ready for some chow. Dig into this guide to what to introduce first, the yummiest finger foods, and how to make sure more mush ends up in his tummy than on the floor.

What's Your Baby-Food IQ?

Feeding baby

Aimee Herring

This quiz will spoon-feed you everything you need to know about introducing your little lip-smacker to solid fare.

1. How will your baby show she's ready to chow down?

A. She'll hold her head up.
B. She'll stare longingly at your plate.
C. She'll start sleeping for progressively longer periods during the night.

Answer A. "Your baby needs to be able to sit with support and keep her head up independently for a meal," says Ashley Hotle, R.D., a pediatric dietitian at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, in Nashville. In general, provided she's upright, you can start solids at about 6 months.

2. Your baby clamps his mouth shut when a spoonful of peas approaches. How many more times should you offer them?

A. One or two times more should do it.
B. Try five to seven times, to be sure.
C. Ten to 20 more -- he will eat peas!

Answer C. Research has shown that repeated exposure is the best way to help your baby learn to like certain foods. Just take your time. "Offer him one bite every day for a week," suggests Alan Greene, M.D., clinical professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine, in California. Research shows that eighty-five percent of little ones eventually enjoy the taste of a new food. So if at first you don't succeed, try, try, try, try, try ... again!

3. Your baby is most open to new flavors at ...

A. 6 to 12 months.
B. 12 to 18 months.
C. 18 to 24 months.

Answer A. Your child can learn to like almost any food from the time he starts solids until he hits the picky-eater phase, which usually begins when Baby starts walking and peaks between ages 2 and 3. Start building your budding foodie's repertoire sooner rather than later.

4. You can ensure your baby's healthy-eating future by ...

A. Making healthy food choices yourself.
B. Discussing your baby's diet with your pediatrician or nurse practitioner.
C. Both of the above.

Answer C. When Mom fills up on healthy bites, her toddler is less fussy about what's on his plate and shows more interest in eating well, reveals research in The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, so start laying the good-for-you groundwork now. In another study, scientists at Pennsylvania State University found that when nurses taught new moms healthy feeding practices (such as avoiding calorie-laden, low-nutrient foods), their babies were more likely to accept veggies and new foods. But, please, don't let that stop you from dipping into a bowl of ice cream now and then. Moderation, Mama!

5. If your baby is younger than 1, you can safely feed her ...

A. Fish.
B. Grapes.
C. Hot dogs.

Answer A. Fish, as long as it's mashed up, is safe for babies who are 6 months and older. Choose swimmers that are low in mercury, such as salmon or mahi mahi. Waiting to introduce foods usually associated with allergies (fish, shellfish, cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, nuts, wheat, and soy) does nothing to prevent allergies, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. But do avoid choking hazards like grapes, hot dogs, popcorn and raw carrots.

6 New Rules For Feeding Baby

Feeding baby

Aimee Herring

1. Don't Add To A Bottle.
Cereal-thickened formula can make babies gag and inhale the liquid into their lungs. And your tot doesn't need the extra calories. (If your M.D. wants to increase Baby's caloric intake, she'll have you add to his plate once he's on solids.)

2. Teach Her To Sit Pretty.
Encourage your pumpkin to keep her legs and hips at a 90-degree angle, and adjust the high chair so her back and feet are well supported. This position will bolster her head and neck muscles and relieve pressure on her abdominal region, reducing the chance that she'll spit up. (You're welcome!)

3. Start With Some Rice Cereal ... Or Not!
Generations of parents have considered rice cereal the ideal first food, as it's unlikely to trigger allergies, but docs now say it's fine to start with pureed veggies, applesauce, or any baby food.

4. Let Them Eat Meat.
Research shows that children who eat meat earlier in life have a higher intake of zinc and iron, nutrients important for growth. You can start with either red meat or poultry as long as it's pureed to a thin consistency.

5. If You'd Like, Serve Fruit Before Veggies.
The old-think was that your young gourmand would turn her nose up at veggies after tasting sweet fruit, but there's no evidence to back that theory. (See a video on feeding solids for the first time at americanbaby.com/solids.)

6. Spice Things Up!
Babies need to learn to enjoy plain fruits and veggies, but serving mildly seasoned ravioli (puree it first) is fine too. Once your babe is 10 months, you can get more adventurous.

Easy-To-Make Purees

Feeding baby

Aimee Herring

Whipping up these yummy first foods is almost as simple as opening a pouch. If you have a food processor or blender and a saucepan, you're in business!

While your sweetie is getting the hang of swallowing "real" food, try thinning his mush with a teaspoon or two of water to help it go down easily. After doling out his portion (a tablespoon or two will do), pour the rest of the batch into stackable, BPA-free plastic containers and refrigerate for up to three days, or freeze for up to three months. Thaw meals overnight in the fridge and warm each one for just a few seconds in the microwave. And if at first he pushes the spoon away, offer the food again another day!

Spicy Sweet Potato

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
1/8 teaspoon cumin

Cook sweet potato in boiling water until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and place in food processor or blender. Microwave butter and spices together for 20 seconds. Add to sweet-potato mixture and puree until smooth.

Asparagus And Broccoli

1 cup cut asparagus pieces
1 cup small broccoli florets
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil

Cook asparagus and broccoli in boiling water until tender; drain. Place garlic and oil in a small bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Puree all ingredients in a food processor or blender until they reach a smooth consistency.

Curried Peas

1 10-ounce bag frozen peas, cooked and drained
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/4 teaspoon currypowder

Puree all the ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth.

Your Baby's Ideal Diet

Carrots and squash

Alexandra Grablewski

Your cutie's appetite is growing fast! Not sure how much to give her each day? Follow these suggestions from Eileen Behan, R.D., author of The Baby Food Bible.

6-8 Months

Baby can enjoy pureed cereals, fruits, veggies, and meat -- in addition to three to five nursings or 24 to 32 ounces of formula.

Breakfast
2 Tbs. infant cereal

Lunch
1 to 2 Tbs. infant cereal and 2 Tbs. pureed fruit or veggies (applesauce, ripe mangoes, sweet potatoes, or peas)

Dinner
1 to 2 Tbs. infant cereal and 1 to 2 Tbs. pureed fruit, veggies, or meat (such as carrots and squash, bananas, ripe apricots, or turkey)

8-11 Months

Add daily noshes of finger food. Baby should continue to nurse three to five times or get 24 to 32 ounces of formula each day.

Breakfast
2 to 3 Tbs. infant cereal and about 1 Tbs. fruit (such as finely diced kiwifruit, bananas, ripe peaches, watermelon, very ripe pears, or cantaloupe)

Lunch
2 to 3 Tbs. infant cereal, 2 Tbs. pureed fruit, and 1 Tbs. finger food (such as whole-grain cereal, bits of tofu, avocado, or cooked and finely diced squash)

Dinner
2 Tbs. pureed veggies, 1 to 2 Tbs. pureed meat, and 1 Tbs. finger food (such as tiny pieces of pineapple, ripe peaches, cooked sweet potatoes, or diced bananas)

Foods To Watch

Cow's milk Babies younger than 1 can't digest it, though yogurt's fine. After 12 months, gradually mix whole milk with formula or breast milk.

Peanut butter It can be a choking hazard. Wait until at least 6 months, and spread it thinly on bread or crackers.

Honey It might cause botulism, which a baby's GI tract can't handle, and it can even be fatal. After 1 year, stir it into plain yogurt or spread on toast.

Raw veggies and dried fruits They're choking hazards (ditto stringy foods). After 12 months, introduce raisin-size pieces of these nibbles.

Firm round foods They could get lodged in Baby's windpipe, even if they're irregularly shaped (like blackberries). Chop them into thin slivers so they're no longer round.

Originally published in American Baby magazine in 2013.

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