The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life.
For those who cannot or choose not to do this, infants can be given formula. Around six months of age, most babies are ready for solid foods.
Babies show signs that they are ready to try solids.
They need to be able to sit upright with a little support (such as when in a high chair).
A baby also should be able to hold his head up for long periods of time without it flopping over.
Turning her head away from the breast or bottle shows that a baby is learning when she is no longer hungry (so she will have an idea when to also stop eating solids).
If a baby is trying to grab food off a plate, he is definitely showing interest in it.
Most healthcare providers recommend starting off with an infant cereal as a first food.
Cereal has the advantage of being able to be mixed with breastmilk or formula to any thickness that a baby desires.
The familiar taste of a substance he has had before mixed with the cereal can ease him into trying it.
Traditional cultures all over the world have fed babies their first solids by having a caregiver chew up food and gradually spit it into their mouths.
Some anthropologists think that this is the ultimate origin of kissing.
In any event, appropriate first solids include pureed vegetables and fruits.
These can be bought in jars or made at home.
Typical servings for these are one to two tablespoons. Later, babies may want three to four tablespoons of one of them at a sitting.
Around 8 to 9 months of age, most infants can be fed small pieces (less than dime-sized) of “finger foods” such as grilled chicken or low-sugar cereals.
Quite a few healthcare providers will tell caregivers to introduce a new solid for a few days in a row before starting a newer one.
This allows for observing the baby for signs of food allergy.
It is not unusual for a baby to act like she does not like a new solid. She can be taught to like it if she is fed the food 10 to 15 times.
It is important to give infants a variety of solids of different types and textures.
This can help set up healthy eating habits later in life.
Dr. Charles Ison is a University of Kentucky graduate who has practiced in his hometown of Lexington since 1993. He is a partner in Pediatric and Adolescent Associates.