Most doctors will recommend that you continue solely breastfeeding or bottle-feeding your infant until he or she is 6 months old, but it is generally accepted that you can introduce solid foods into your baby's diet any time between the ages of 4 and 6 months if they show signs of readiness. Don't stop breastfeeding your baby if you do decide to begin feeding him or her solids however, as babies should continue to be breast or bottle-fed until they are a year old.
When to Make the Transition
You can start feeding your babies solid foods when they:
• Can keep their head steady and upright
• Stop using their tongue to push food out of their mouth
• Can sit up and swallow well, even if they still need to be supported
• Can make chewing motions and move food to the back of the mouth to swallow
• Double their birth weight and are at least 4 months old
• Develop a bigger appetite and still seem to be hungry even with 8-10 feedings of breast milk or formula per day
• Are curious about what you're eating
Introducing Solid Foods
Start with simple baby cereals: Nurse or bottle-feed your baby before mixing a bit of dry cereal with enough breast milk or formula to make it semi-liquid. Place a small amount of cereal on the tip of the spoon and feed your child only 1-2 teaspoons of the cereal, making sure to use a rubber-tipped spoon to avoid injuring your baby's gums.
Be patient: Your baby might not seem particularly interested in eating off the spoon at first, but don't let that discourage you; allow your baby to smell and taste the cereal before trying to have it eat off the spoon again. If that doesn't work, wait a bit before trying to give your baby solids. Keep in mind that it may take a while for your child to get used to eating solids, and that he or she might need to practice the process of keeping food in their mouth and the process of swallowing.
Establish a routine: Try feeding your baby solids once a day when it's convenient for both you and your little one, but don't attempt it when your child is in a bad mood or tired. Once he or she gets used to the new diet, start feeding them a few tablespoons a day, and as the portion your baby eats grows you can begin to gradually thicken the cereal's consistency and add other types of foods.
Know when to stop: Don't depend on the amount your baby usually eats to evaluate whether they are full or not, as their appetite will vary from one meal to the next. You can tell when your baby is full when they turn their head to avoid the food, start playing with the spoon, or simply refuse to open his or her mouth for the next bite. Some babies take time to swallow, so not opening their mouth as soon as you offer the next bite might just be a sign that your baby is still chewing and swallowing their food.
Add variety: You can start varying your baby's list of solid food options once they master eating cereal by offering them a few tablespoons of mashed boiled vegetables or fruits during their regular cereal meals. Some foods you can start with are applesauce, bananas, oatmeal, pears, peaches, carrots, sweet potatoes and squash. At this stage your baby can only press the food against the top of their mouth before swallowing, so make sure that you only feed them strained or mushy food.