During the first six months of your baby's life, his birth weight is likely to double, and to sustain this growth he will eventually need more than just breast milk or formula milk. The weaning process, or the introduction of solid foods, begins at 4 to 6 months. At first, the food should be cooked to make it easier for your baby to eat and digest. First foods the world over are soft and bland, and usually mushy blends of staple foods that are easily digested, such as rice, non-citrus fruit or vegetables. Gradually, a more varied range of purees can be given to encourage your baby to chew and swallow and to broaden his appetite.
By 4 months, your baby is likely to be more settled and to have a routine. You will be able to tell whether he is happy or not and he will often indicate this by smiling and laughing out loud. He can recognize your smell and voice and increasingly will be able to focus on objects close to him, in particular, your face. When you put him on the floor, he may be able to roll over in one direction. At this stage he will also be staying awake for longer during the day and will be more alert. This is a great time to start playing simple games and having conversations. He is very likely to be amused by seeing his reflection in a mirror; try putting him in front of one and watch him chat away.
Teething And Sitting Up
There is no fixed time for teething, but on average your baby's first teeth could appear at around 5 months. He may start to chew his hand or suck his thumb and even put his feet in his mouth — babies often chew and suck everything in sight! This can alleviate the pain of teething. He will begin to learn to sit and hold his head unsupported, and he will reach for things to hold and chew — these are good indications that he is ready to be weaned because he will have the coordination to pick up and move the spoon from bowl to mouth, although you will need to feed him at this stage. It is often during feeding when you discover that, as well as being able to coo with pleasure, your baby can squeal and scream with annoyance.
One of the easiest ways to judge whether a baby is ready to be weaned is by testing his tongue- thrust reflex. If you put a tiny amount of bland purée onto the end of your finger and gently put it onto the tip of your baby's tongue he will poke both the food and his tongue out almost immediately. This reflex clears any foreign bodies, including food, out of his mouth and so protects him from choking. At some point between 4 and 6 months this reflex disappears. Try a little experiment with your baby and see what his reaction is. If he sucks your finger instead of spitting out the food, it is a sure sign he is ready to try a little solid food.
At this stage, breast milk or infant formula milk is still providing all the nutrients that your baby needs. The introduction of other foods during weaning is simply to help your child become used to eating solids, and to learn how to swallow, rather than suck food off a spoon. As long as your baby is drinking milk as usual, there is no reason to be concerned about his nutritional intake. Remember to always wash all fruits and vegetables carefully before you cook them. And never leave a baby alone while feeding.