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As new parents, you want to give the best to your baby. The best start is through good nutrition. Good nutrition from the start or on the baby's first year is very important because it is a time of rapid growth and development. Providing babies with the right foods will promote good health and develop good eating habits.

It is a fact that mother's milk is the ideal nourishment for the first six months of life. Generally, at six months of age, the baby is ready for solids or complementary foods but if you are not sure, test the baby's readiness to accept new foods by placing a teaspoon between the lips. If the lips tend to close or the teaspoon is pushed away continuously, then your baby is not yet ready. Don't force your baby to eat. The following indicates readiness to accept solids:

 - when he accepts food from a spoon without the tongue pushing the food out of his mouth,
 - when he is interested in foods when others eat,
 - when he is able to swallow,
 - when your baby has doubled his birth weight, and
 - when he can sit on his own.

Here are some important points to keep in mind when introducing solids to your baby's diet:

One at a time - Introduce one new food at a time. Never start two new foods at the same time. Let your baby get used to a new food for about three days before trying out a new one. This will give you time to see if there is any allergic reaction to your baby. It is also advisable to introduce new food to your baby during breakfast or lunch to reduce the risk of allergic symptoms developing during the night. Be sure to only give foods that are appropriate to your baby's age.

Take it in Steps - Start with a small amount of any food - a teaspoonful or less then gradually increase the amount - a tablespoonful or more. Use thin liquid purees when starting solid foods then gradually shift to more solid and chunkier meals. Make sure that your baby is able to cope comfortably with the new texture.

Keep it Wholesome - Offer bland foods to your baby. Salt should not be added to your baby's food until the age of one as the baby's kidneys cannot cope with salt. Even after the age of one, only a little amount of salt should be added to the food. Add little or no sugar to your baby's food. Too much sugar and sweets lead to tooth decay and encourage the child to have a sweet tooth. Don't force your baby to eat - Don't over-react if your baby doesn't want to eat. Maybe he/she doesn't feel hungry. Don't worry, he/she will make up for it next time.

Don't Forget the Basics - Always test the temperature of the food before you give it to your baby. Be sure to pay attention to good personal hygiene practices when preparing baby's food. Wash your hands with soap and clean water before handling baby's food. Sterilize bowls and spoons used for feeding. Avoid giving left-over foods to your baby, give only freshly cooked and freshly peeled fruits.

Remember with proper feeding, your baby will grow healthy and strong, be a source of pride and happiness to your family

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