Since babies don’t read books, they rarely do exactly what child-rearing books or articles claim is age-appropriate. There are general guidelines you can follow for feeding your 6-month-old, but remember to let your child take the lead in starting solids or developing food preferences. Most 6-month-olds are ready for the big transition to solid food. This time frame fits in with current American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendations that exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first four months of life, and preferably for the first six months, is the most beneficial diet plan.
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Breastfeeding or Formula Intake
At 6 months of age, breast milk or formula still tops the dietary list for calorie intake. By 6 months, the typical infant -- which yours may not be -- takes between three and five feedings each day. Formula-fed babies drink between 24 and 32 oz. of formula each day. Cow’s milk is not appropriate for a 6-month-old, since it lacks iron and other nutrients. Wait until your baby is at least one year old before switching to formula. Do not add cereal to your baby’s bottle, unless your pediatrician suggests doing so.
Signs that your baby is ready for solid foods usually appear by about 6 months. Babies younger than 4 months generally can’t handle solid foods well because they have a strong tongue-thrust reflex, which keeps them from choking but also prevents them from swallowing solid foods well. Some signs of readiness include watching you eat, reaching for what’s on your plate, making chewing motions or opening her mouth when you bring a spoon near it.
Start introducing solid foods in small amounts, no more than a teaspoonful or two at a time. Author and pediatrician William Sears, M.D., suggests using the tip of your finger as the baby’s first spoon -- after washing, of course. Start by placing a small amount of food on the baby’s lips, then advance to the tip of the tongue, which has receptors for sweetness. If the baby handles this well without spitting it out, put the next bit of food in the middle of the tongue. Many parents start with cereal, since it isn’t too sweet. Rice and barley are the least likely to be allergenic.
Advancing the Diet
When you add more foods to a six-month-old’s diet -- such as pureed fruits and vegetables -- start slowly and introduce one new food at a time, waiting two to three days before introducing another food. If the baby has an allergic reaction -- as evidenced by rashes, respiratory problems, gassiness, vomiting or diarrhea -- you'll know which food is responsible. At 6 months, solid foods are an important addition to the diet but should not take the place of breast milk or formula.