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Introducing your baby to solid food is an exciting time.  This marks a huge step in building independence in your little one.  Between 4 and 6 months your baby will have used up their stores of iron and will need to get this important mineral from food.  Every baby is different and you need to watch for signs that your baby is ready to eat solids.  Babies have a tongue thrust reflex to push out foreign objects and protect their airway.  When this reflex is lost they can be fed solids. Also your baby should be able to sit up without being held.  And finally your baby must have a willingness to chew (which if you are nursing you’d no doubt be very aware of!)

Eating time should be a relaxed and happy time when you can connect with your baby.  Just as nursing or bottle feeding have allowed you to communicate with your baby, changing to eating solids should keep this bond.  The goal isn’t to finish the portion or “succeed” in feeding the baby but to enjoy the exploration of food and to listen to your baby’s cues about likes and dislikes as well as fullness. When starting out, try to feed in a familiar place when baby isn’t ravenous and is willing to try new things.

Involve the family.  Eating is part of culture and including your baby in family mealtimes creates the wonderful feeling of togetherness that will remain for the rest of childhood.  Involve other siblings and relatives as your baby becomes more comfortable eating solid foods.

Avoid processed foods, especially if you are not going to feed them later on.  Avoid the temptation to buy boxed “special” baby foods.  Egg yolk, banana, avocado and fish are all excellent foods that can be baby ready in a short space of time with little effort and offer whole food nutrition.  Adding formula or breast milk and mashing these foods to a very fine texture will allow them to be fed to the most discerning little one.  Fruit and vegetables can cooked quite easily and blended to form a puree.  Choosing whole, local, organic foods means you know where your baby’s meal is coming from and that you can share the same foods with the rest of your family.

Take your time.  There is no rush for your baby to eat many things in the beginning.  Most of their nutrition should be coming from formula or breast milk.  Enjoy the exploration. For some hesitant little folk it will take many tries for them to develop a taste for certain foods.  Don’t give up.  Offer a food they like and then give a taste of a less liked food and watch to see how they react.  Over time they may develop a taste for it. Or you might find out this is a lifelong hate.  Always feed a new food for a few days then watch carefully for signs of allergy – diaper rash, fussiness, gas or signs of ear ache.  If your family has a history of allergy, feed a single food for longer, up to two weeks to ensure no adverse reaction happens. Should a food not seem to agree with your baby, stop that food and wait for another few months before reintroducing it.

Once your baby has enjoyed a few foods and tolerates the well, try combinations.  Pears and peas make an unlikely duo but the sweetness in each enhances the flavor of the other.  Squash and apples or banana and avocado also make interesting blends.  As you introduce more food over time you will simply need to blend the elements of your family dinner to feed your baby.

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