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Baby Care - Feeding Solids

There is no set time for introducing solid foods into a baby's diet. Some parents start offering their baby cereal as early as six weeks, but this can place considerable strain on a baby's digestive system. Generally, a baby thrives on a liquid diet, supplemented with vitamins, for the first six months. Depending on the individual baby, any time between four and six months may be suitable for the introduction of solids.

Remember that solids given to a baby represent a replacement for milk and are an addition to the baby's previous total consumption. Milk is easy to digest and goes through a baby's system fairly rapidly; solids take longer. The result is that the number of feedings per day can probably be reduced by one, once the baby is on solids. A parent usually chooses the least convenient feeding time as the one to be dropped-generally the A.M. feeding.

There are many signs to tell a parent when a baby needs more than merely milk. A baby is ready for solids when he or she:

  • wakes during the night demanding to be fed, having previously for some time slept right through every night without complaint;
  • gains only one or two ounces (30 or 60 grams), or nothing at all, during a week;
  • seems restless between feedings during the day and wakes up crying too soon before each feeding;
  • is no longer satisfied by an eight-ounce (240ml) bottle, or, if breast-fed, interrupts nursing and plucks at the mother's clothing, trying to chew it;
  • shows a readiness to chew by picking up objects and trying to put them in the mouth.

A baby's first solid food should consist of a single cereal. Begin with only one teaspoonful of the new food at one mealtime, gradually introducing new foods and flavors over a period of weeks. In subsequent weeks, single pureed fruits and vegetables may be added.

Any change in feeding pattern can result in the baby's showing no weight gain during that week or even a weight loss. But such a holdup or loss will be made up for by the baby's increased appetite the following week. A cold, an upset stomach, or the process of teething can have the same temporary effect.

It is easy to judge the amount of solid food to give a previously bottle-fed baby; the milk in the bottle can be measured. But for a breast-fed baby it may be necessary to weight the baby before and after each feeding for one day, to determine the total milk consumption.

Any increase in the amount of food given to a baby must be gradual. One teaspoonful more at selected times is the maximum advisable, especially of fruit and vegetables, for one week at a time. If the baby seems to be gaining weight too rapidly, cereals should be increased even more slowly.

When the baby has reached the stage of having five or six teaspoonfuls of pure vegetables at lunchtime, some meat, poultry, fish, or cheese may be added. The baby's milk consumption should decrease as the consumption of solid foods increases.

Having started on solids at age four months, for example, a six-to seven-month-old infant generally has three main mealtimes plus an afternoon snack of a teething biscuit and a bottle of fruit juice.

Food should be pureed for a baby up to age seven months; the puree should be of sufficiently thick consistency for the baby to be able to eat it from a spoon. Mince or grind food for a baby of age seven to ten months. After this ageFind Article, a baby can eat food that has simply been cut up into small pieces.

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