Babies may be started on solids later these days, but the preferred first food hasn't changed: It's still iron-fortified rice cereal, for several reasons. Rice is recommended because it's the grain least likely to cause an allergic reaction. Additional iron is also important now because your baby will have depleted his stores of this nutrient-which is vital for growth-by the time he is between 4 and 6 months old, unless he receives some supplementation through formula, vitamin drops, or cereal.
Most pediatricians recommend starting with only a teaspoon or two of rice cereal, mixed to a thin, runny consistency with breast milk or formula. If your baby takes the cereal and has no adverse reactions after a week, add a second daily feeding. Then gradually increase the amount of cereal until she is consuming about one-half cup daily, and add less liquid so it becomes thicker. If your baby fares well with the rice cereal, you may also introduce iron-fortified barley and oatmeal infant cereals to her diet, adding each new grain one at a time and waiting several days before introducing another so that you can watch for possible adverse reactions.
What constitutes an adverse reaction? Signs of a possible allergy include gas, bloating, diarrhea, vomiting, a rash around the baby's mouth, a runny nose, watery eyes, or wheezing. Keep in mind, however, that what babies experience at this stage isn't really a food "allergy" in the traditional sense. Rather, your baby is demonstrating a food sensitivity -her immature intestines can't tolerate that particular item yet. In all likelihood, she'll be able to handle the food in the not-too-distant future. If your baby does exhibit a reaction, discontinue using that food and consult your pediatrician for suggestions.
Once your baby is well established on cereal, you can begin adding fruits and vegetables slowly. Again, remember to add only one new food each week, in small amounts, to be certain it doesn't produce an allergic reaction.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.