Out of all the milestones, baby's readiness for solids is probably the subtlest. It's not like when he's teething!
Relax and follow your budding epicure's cues:
By 3 or 4 Months
Baby will lose his tongue-thrust reflex, nature's way of keeping everything but liquids from entering a young infant's mouth. Next, he'll show interest in table food by drooling, opening his mouth, or leaning forward. By this point, he should have head control and be able to sit up with help. And more isn't always best: Don't jump into serving baby three meals a day. Gradually work up to it.
4 to 6 Months
It's mealtime. Start with iron-fortified rice cereal, which will provide baby with 30 to 45 percent of his daily requirement of the nutrient. Mix one teaspoon of cereal with 4 to 5 teaspoons of breast milk or warm formula until it has a semi-liquid consistency.
6 to 8 Months
Open wide! Individually introduce pureed fruits, oatmeal and barley cereals, vegetables, and strained meats. Space each trial run two to three days apart; look for allergic reactions like diarrhea, rashes, and wheezing. If your baby has a reaction to a food, try again within a few months and then consult her doctor.
7 to 10 Months
She's growing up fast. Baby is now ready for strained or mashed fruits and vegetables. She can also try yogurt. Pasta, some veggies (see veggie advice on the next page), and fruit should all be cooked until soft. (Bananas need to be mashed.) Meats and poultry should be finely chopped. With ever-increasing independence, baby is ready to try small finger foods that dissolve easily, such as Cheerios.
9 to 12 Months
By this point, baby is no longer a bystander at the family dinner table. Short of engaging in conversation, she is now noshing on entrees and sides like everyone else. But she still doesn't have the mouthful of choppers to handle everything, so feed her soft combination foods such as casseroles and macaroni and cheese and keep crunchier items bite-size.