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When it’s time to wean your baby off the bottle or breast, it can be tough to know where to start to get them eating solid, nutritious foods. But these early days of eating “grown up food” set the stage for their lifelong nutrition, helping them develop their palate and identifying any allergies or sensitivities.

Your child is ready to start consuming solids once they’re between the ages of four and six months. At this time, they should be able to sit up on their own, support their head and control their tongue to keep food down instead of automatically spitting it up. Lastly, your child’s appetite will increase around this time, indicating that breast milk or formula  just aren’t enough for them anymore.

Once you’re ready to begin introducing solid foods, it’s best to avoid those known to be common allergens like soy, nuts and anything with traces of shellfish. You should also steer clear of citrus fruits, due to the high acid content that can be irritating, as well as dried fruits and dairy milk. Start with wholesome fruits and veggies like bananas, plums, pears, carrots and peas. Grains like quinoa and chicken can also be added for more protein and fiber.

If you want to prepare your own baby food, try boiling, steaming or baking fresh fruits and veggies and pureeing them to a smooth texture. You can store the food you made in individually portioned containers in the fridge for a few days. You can find more information about making your own baby food here

In the beginning, your child will still consume a combination of breast milk or formula along with solid foods. Their meals will only be a few tablespoons of solid food at first, becoming a larger portion as they get older and come off breast milk and formula. Try introducing new textures and flavors for greater variety, paying attention to what they like or dislike as well as how certain foods affect them physically (i.e. indigestion). Keep a journal of recipes they like for quick reference when shopping.

A lot of transitioning your baby to solid foods will be trial and error. They’ll spit the food out, slap your hand away or shake their head, but you need to be persistent. Helping your child develop a taste for wholesome foods will help them maintain a balanced diet throughout their lives, giving them the proper nutrition they so desperately need for growth and development. Try making mealtime fun with music or the old standby, “Here comes the airplane!” Clap, cheer and offer congratulations and encouragement and your baby will associate mealtime with happiness instead of stress.

Taking a persistent, wholesome approach to moving your baby to solid foods is the best way to get them there sooner. Who says you have to have a picky eater, right?

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