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Making the Shift from Formula to Solids

Transitioning from formula feeding to solid foods takes time, patience and a keen understanding of an infant's nutritional needs. Most babies don't need anything in addition to their formula during their first six months, according to Kids Health. As your child nears the half-year mark, assessing her developmental readiness and appropriately prepping your pantry will help smooth the shift from a formula-only diet to one that includes solid foods.

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Readiness Signals

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that an infant's readiness to start solids is dependent on his individual development and not just age. If your baby is ready to make the transition, he should be able to hold his head upright and sit in a high chair. An infant who is developmentally ready to start solids will also act eager to eat, opening his mouth as he watches you eat or reaching for what you're eating, according to HealthyChildren.org, a website of the AAP.

First Start

Because your baby has an increasing need for iron, an iron-fortified infant cereal makes a smart first addition, according to the University of California San Francisco Benioff Children's Hospital. Fortified infant cereals include rice, oatmeal and barley varieties that come ready-to-eat or that require mixing with liquid. You can blend the cereal with a bit of formula or water to form a thick consistency. Even though infant cereal is a popular choice for beginners, the AAP notes that there's no medical evidence supporting starting with one specific food. Begin by offering a little formula, then a little cereal — no more than half a spoonful — then follow up with more formula to adequately satisfy her appetite. Expect feedings to be a bit messy until your baby adjusts to new flavors and textures.

Food Groups

After your baby gets used to eating cereal, you can slowly start to introduce new foods, such as strained and mashed fruits and vegetables. The AAP recommends adding only one new food at a time. Space the introduction of different foods two to three days apart, watching for any signs of allergic reaction, such as vomiting, swelling of the lips or eyes, or a rash. If your infant experiences any of these, eliminate the food from her diet and discuss the reaction with the pediatrician. If the reaction is severe, or your baby has trouble breathing, seek emergency medical care.

Feeding Time

Even a baby who is eager to eat may struggle with the change from a soft bottle nipple to a spoon. The Ask Dr. Sears website suggests using your fingers to feed your baby in the beginning. After he gets used to eating solids, you can switch to a rounded plastic or rubber infant spoon. Start slowly, only giving him a teaspoon or two at any one feeding. You should continue to give your baby formula as well as solid food during the first year. That said, the AAP cautions parents against mixing cereal into formula and offering it in a bottle. This is a choking hazard and can potentially cause an infant to gain too much weight.

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Safe Solid Feedings

Foods that are appropriate for infants will be soft and free of hard chunks — never serve your infant anything that requires chewing. Cereals should be clearly labeled as baby food. Once your infant is sitting up and has developed hand-to-mouth coordination, you may introduce finger foods such as bits of scrambled egg; finely chopped, tender pieces of cooked chicken; and well-cooked pasta and veggies, such as green peas or potatoes. If you make your own baby food, steer clear of beets, squash, spinach, carrots and green beans. The AAP says these foods may contain chemicals called nitrates that cause anemia. Baby food manufacturers test for these, however, so these foods are fine if bought ready-to-eat.

Image via Noel Hendrickson/Digital Vision/Getty Images

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