Start solids between 4 to 6 months when your baby can sit up with support, has head and neck control, seems interested in your food, and has lost the reflex that automatically pushes any food out of her mouth. Before 4 months, your baby's digestive system can't handle anything besides breast milk or formula. But don't wait much longer than 6 months to start, or your baby may get so accustomed to her liquid diet that she loses interest in learning to chew and swallow solid foods.
Your baby doesn't need the extra calories that it adds to formula -- unless your pediatrician advises it. Plus, thickened formula can cause babies to gag or inhale the liquid into their lungs.
When you wait two to three days between offering new foods, it's easier to spot allergic reactions like diarrhea, vomiting, or rash -- though most symptoms appear within four hours of eating.
Don't ditch a new food if your baby winces after tasting it. Babies may need to try a food 10 times before accepting it, so offer it again several days later -- or mix it with something you know he likes.
True, it's unlikely to trigger an allergic reaction, but there's no reason you can't begin with other foods -- such as applesauce, pureed squash, other baby cereals, or even pureed meat.
If you want to, offer fruit first. There's no evidence that babies won't like veggies if they've already had fruit.
Research shows that babies who eat meat earlier have a higher intake of zinc and iron, nutrients important for growth. Start with pureed chicken or beef.
Babies should learn to enjoy plain fruits and veggies, but running mildly spicy ravioli through the baby food mill is okay too. Ditto with sprinkling some cinnamon onto sweet potato puree or stirring cumin into squash.Originally published in Parents magazine.