Introducing Solid food to the baby

Breast milk is the perfect food for a human baby's digestive system. Your newborn should be nursing eight to 12 times per day during about the first month. In the beginning, mothers may want to try nursing 10 to 15 minutes on each breast, and then vary the time as necessary. Most experts suggest you nurse or feed your baby whenever he or she seems hungry.

You can introduce solids any time between 4 and 6 months if your baby is ready. Until then, breast milk or formula provides all the calories and nourishment your baby needs and can handle. His digestive system simply isn't ready for solids until he nears his half-birthday. and your baby will give you clear signs when he's ready to move beyond liquid-only nourishment.

Clues to look for include:

Head control: Your baby needs to be able to keep his head in a steady, upright position.

Losing the extrusion reflex: To keep solid food in his mouth and then swallow it, your baby needs to stop using his tongue to push food out of his mouth.

Sitting well when supported: Even if he's not quite ready for a highchair, your baby needs to be able to sit upright to swallow well.

Chewing motions: Your baby's mouth and tongue develop in sync with his digestive system. To start solids, he should be able to move food to the back of his mouth and swallow. As he learns to swallow efficiently, you may notice less drooling though if your baby's teething, you might still see a lot of drool.

Significant weight gain: Most babies are ready to eat solids when they've doubled their birth weight and are at least 4 months old.

Growing appetite: He seems hungry even with eight to ten feedings of breast milk or formula a day.

Curiosity about what you're eating: Your baby may begin looking at your bowl of rice or reaching for a forkful of fettuccine as it travels from your plate to your mouth.

Your baby's appetite will vary from one feeding to the next, so a strict accounting of the amount he's eaten isn't a reliable way to tell when he's had enough. If your baby leans back in his chair, turns his head away from food, starts playing with the spoon, or refuses to open up for the next bite, he has probably had enough.