Feeding your baby her first solid food is an exciting event. The best time to start your baby on solids is when she is showing readiness signs. These signs include sitting well with support, development of a "pincer grasp" (picking up food between the thumb and forefinger), mouthing her toys, and showing interest in what you're eating.

Your baby should be between 4 and 6 months of age when you introduce solids. This is important because she'll be less likely to develop an allergy to foods she is not mature enough to digest.

Most pediatricians recommend iron-fortified rice cereal for your baby's first solid food. Babies generally use up their iron stores by six months of age and will benefit from the extra iron. Rice is also less likely than other grains to cause an allergic reaction. Rice cereal should be mixed with breast-milk or formula to a fairly liquid texture at first; you can decrease the amount of liquid as your baby's eating skills and appetite increase. After rice cereal, you can add other grains such as barley or oat, followed by puréed fruits and vegetables.

Always try to wait a week between introducing each new food to check for food allergies. By one year of age your baby will progress to the point where they can have well-cooked, cut-up table food. Avoid honey, cow's milk, and eggs until your baby is one year old. Peanut butter and shellfish should be avoided until 3 years of age to prevent allergies.

Marlene Veloso