Q&A: When should I begin my 4-month-old on baby food?
Q: When should I begin my 4-month-old on baby food?

A: Make homemade food for baby and freeze it in ice cube trays for smaller portions. For example, mash potatoes with no milk or butter and place in ice cube trays. Don't introduce a new food at least one week after another one has already been introduced to prevent food allergies. - Lisette Toth Cookstown, Ontario, Canada

A: Watch your baby for cues as to when she is ready to eat solids. She may open her mouth when she watches you eat or reach for your food when you are eating. I didn't give my daughter solids until she was seven months old because she was not ready. Remember that babies get all of their nutrients from breast milk or iron-fortified infant formula for the first year. - Amy Marohl in La Crosse, WI

A: I started my now 10-month-old daughter on solids before she was 4 months old. She was a large baby and was very hungry. She was formula-fed from birth, but this was not enough to fill her up. I started her on baby rice and very mashed veggies and fruit. She now eats a lot of what the rest of the family eats and insists on feeding herself while eating a wide variety of foods. I think that deciding when to start solids has to depend on you and your baby; if you do what's right for your own individual baby, it will all work out in the end. - Monica Guy in Christchurch, New Zealand

A: Contrary to what others may think, your 4-month-old doesn't need anything other than breast milk or formula. In fact, a baby who is breastfeeding does not need solid foods until around one year. However, you will probably enjoy feeding her first solids and want to get her started on table foods so that she can develop the muscles in the mouth that are useful in spoon feeding and swallowing. Start out around 5 months with rice cereal that is the consistency of thickened breast milk. It should slip right off the spoon when over turned. This will be easy for her to swallow. As she gets used to eating off the spoon, gradually add more cereal. By about 6 months you can start adding single ingredient foods such as bananas, carrots, sweet potatoes and pears. It will be a trial and error period for a while until you establish what foods your baby can tolerate and which ones she likes. Remember that just because she hated bananas the first time, doesn't mean she will always hate them. - Sandi Bruegger in St. Louis, MO

From Jodie: Take notes on what your baby can or will not eat. Write down results on a large spaced calendar that you can refer to often. Be aware of allergic reactions such as rashes, vomiting, diarrhea, and even coughing and wheezing. Diarrhea is not a sure sign of an allergic reaction. If it occurs, stop giving the food and introduce it later in two to three weeks in a smaller proportion. A change of color in your baby's skin from carrots or squash usually does not indicate an allergic reaction.

Only one small meal a day of solid foods should occur for the first few weeks in combination with regularly scheduled breast or formula feedings. Your baby will become thirstier. Continue with breast or formula feeding and try boiled cooled water or juice diluted with boiled cool water to quench baby's thirst. For more information on babies see and/or The Baby & Child Question & Answer Book, by Carol Cooper.

Author Jodie Lynn is the internationally syndicated parenting/family columnist of Parent to Parent.  Her latest book is Mommy-CEO, revised edition.  (It's not just for moms.)  See for more details.