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Baby’s first bite of solid food is a memorable first-year milestone—one, apparently, that many parents can’t wait to reach. Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control shows that 40 percent of parents feed their baby solid food before four months of age, and nearly 10 percent start solids before one month. For the past two decades, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has advised against feeding solid food to babies younger than six months, but parents either aren’t aware of recommendations or find them too restrictive.

It’s true that memorizing first-year nutrition guidelines can be overwhelming for tired new parents. Here’s a by-the-numbers guide to help take the guesswork out of mealtime. Happy chowing down, little one!

Feeding timeline

Months one through six: The AAP recommends that babies consume only breastmilk until six months of age. One reason: breastmilk is higher in fat and calories than the fruit and grain purees traditionally fed to infants, and fuels physical and cognitive growth during this critical period of development.

Month six: This is the month at which the AAP gives the green light to begin solids. Begin introducing a sippy cup at this time too.

Months seven through eight: Don’t rush to feed your baby solids morning, noon and night. Begin with a small meal in the a.m., then gradually add lunch and dinner as your baby progresses. Your baby may be eating three meals by seven to eight months of age.

Months nine through eleven: Your baby is probably interested in spoons and finger foods—follow her lead! Begin allowing your baby to play with a small spoon and soft-textured finger foods. Even if just a few food morsels make it into her mouth, the practice is valuable.

Month twelve: By your baby’s first birthday, he’ll likely be ready to self-feed with a spoon and nosh on finger foods. He may be ready to wean from a bottle too.

More numbers to know

One-three: Number of teaspoons of puree to begin feeding your baby at each sitting.

Two-three: Days to wait between introducing new foods. A brief waiting period between new foods allows parents to watch for potential allergic reactions in their baby, such as skin rashes or diarrhea.

Four: Guide your baby’s palate by introducing her to four different food textures—Pureed or strained, mashed, ground, and small chunks of soft food.

Four-eight: Tablespoons of pureed or mashed foods your baby may eat at each meal by seven-eight months of age.

Malia Jacobson is a nationally published journalist specializing in health and family topics.

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