Once you know baby is ready for solids, here are the steps to making those first feedings a success.

How do you fit solids into baby’s normal feeding schedule?
You might feel like baby’s feeding schedule will be thrown off with the addition of a new meal even if it is just a few bites of rice cereal, but it won’t. The purpose of baby’s solid “meal” at this stage is really to teach him how to eat, not to sustain him nutritionally. Many parents find it easiest to start that first meal in between two established milk feedings.

Thick or thin?
Until now, baby has been on a liquid diet, so solids will present a new texture that your little one might not like at first. Start out by offering baby very smooth purees that almost pour off the spoon. This thin consistency will help make the transition from liquid to solid meals easier. As baby gets the hang of eating from a spoon and manipulating solids in his mouth, you can start serving thicker purees. Hold off on chunkier solids that have more texture until baby reaches 8 months. Though chunkier food won’t necessarily harm him, he’ll likely spit out anything with an unfamiliar texture.

It’s still (mostly) all about the milk.
Even as baby begins eating solids, breast milk or formula will still serve as her primary source of nutrition during the 4- to 6-month period. Most babies should be receiving about 28 to 32 ounces of formula or breast milk a day during this stage—the same or not much less than what baby had before starting solids. While solids provide some calories and nutrients, the small amounts aren’t enough to sustain her.

How much should baby eat?
At first your baby may eat 1 to 2 tablespoons at a meal. Baby will gradually eat more solids over the next few months— 1/2 cup (4 ounces) or more. There’s no magic formula on how much your baby needs. Some will eat more, and some will eat less, so watch your baby for cues. Serve baby food with an infant-sized rubber-tipped spoon, and make bites small, not heaping.

How do you know when baby is full?
Baby’s appetite will vary, so the amount he eats may change daily. Don’t force it—just continue to offer the food at the next meal. As baby gets used to solid foods, he’ll eat more. A few signs that baby may have had enough to eat include:
•   Turns head away from spoon
•   Becomes uninterested in eating; plays with spoon
•   Leans back in chair or seat
•   Refuses to open mouth

Keys to successful first feedings
•   Timing is everything: Plan to offer solid food when baby is well rested, happy, and not yet completely starving. Don’t be surprised if your fussy, hungry baby rejects her green beans. Remember, this is a big change for baby. Working with her schedule will make feedings smoother for everyone.
•   Start with a calm(er) house: Choose a time when your home is calm and there are few(er) distractions. This will help both you and your baby focus on mealtime.
•   Don’t get upset: Feedings during this age (and really for the next year) aren’t glamorous and are often messy, so be prepared for mealtimes to not always go smoothly. Don’t get upset if baby spits out the food, refuses to eat, or makes a huge mess. This is a new learning experience for everyone. Mealtimes will get easier.

Excerpted from Cooking Light First Foods, Oxmoor House, © 2010 by Time Home Entertainment Inc.