In the beginning, all of your baby's nutritional needs are best met from the consumption of breast milk or baby formula. At about 6 months, however, most babies are ready to begin adding solid food to their diets. The goal is to keep adding foods so that by the time the baby becomes a toddler, they will be able to join in on regular family meals.
How to Begin
Most pediatricians recommend an exclusive diet of breast milk or baby formula for the first six months. At that time, you can begin to carefully add in a few simple foods. Most parents find that iron enriched cereal is a good first choice, usually beginning with a specially formulated baby rice cereal that you mix with a bit of breast milk or formula. Don't be surprised if your baby rejects your first few efforts at feeding solid foods. Many babies take a while to grow accustomed to eating solids.
Once your baby is tolerating single grain cereal, you can begin to introduce vegetable and fruit purees. This is best done by choosing one new food at a time and watching carefully to see that your baby shows no signs of allergy before moving on to the next selection. Be sure to vary your baby's diet to include both green and orange veggies, as well as a variety of fruits.
Although there is no single "right" way to select baby foods, some parents find that once their baby has tried fruit, they may object to eating vegetables. After all, vegetables are not nearly as sweet. Others swear that their babies do well by alternating fruits and vegetables.
Experiment to see what works best for you, but remember, it is important that your baby learns to enjoy a wide selection of foods. Once you have determined that your baby has no food allergies, you can be a bit sneaky in getting them to eat vegetables, if need be. Simply mix a fruit and vegetable together and watch as your previously "choosy" baby gobbles up those veggies!
Homemade or Commercially Prepared?
Some parents choose to make their own baby food, while others opt for commercially prepared varieties. Either way is fine, but if you make homemade baby food, be sure not to add sugar, salt, or other seasonings. A baby's digestive system does not tolerate seasonings well, and in any case, it is best to get the baby used to having their wholesome foods served as simply as possible.
Weaning to Cow's Milk
Your GP or health visitor can be a great source of advice when it comes to making the transition from breast milk or formula to cows' milk. Breast milk is beneficial to children to the end of the second year and beyond, but in no instance should a child under 12 months be given cows' milk since it does not contain the proper balance of nutrients to promote healthy growth and development in babies.
Giving children a sound, nutritional start is a great way to encourage a lifelong habit of choosing healthy foods. Parents should make every effort to select wholesome foods for their children -- from that very first bite.