When your baby can hold up her head, and when she begins to watch and grab for what you are eating, it is time to introduce “solid foods” into her diet. “Solid food” really means “any food other than breast milk or formula”.
Jarred baby food is generally quite good in quality, if bland. However, it is expensive, and if used improperly, wasteful. To avoid waste, do not feed the baby directly from a jar of baby food and do not heat food while it is in the jar. Transfer a small amount of the food to its own bowl, and save the remainder of the jar for the next day. Discard leftovers after 24 hours, to be absolutely safe.
Baby cereals are finely-ground grains that need only to be mixed with baby food or a liquid. No cooking is required.
Consult your doctor as to what foods to introduce when. Keep in mind that the guidelines have changed frequently over the years, and that some foods (such as peanut and spices) which are not usually fed to infants in the United States are regularly used as baby food in other countries.
You can make your own baby food by cooking Steamed Vegetables #, and then mashing the vegetables with a fork and then adding a little water, breast milk, or formula. The same technique can be used with some fruits and meats, as well. A food processor or blender will help if you wish to make more than one or two meals' worth. Save baby food for later by freezing it in an ice-cube tray. Once frozen, transfer the cubes of frozen baby food into a tightly-sealing container.
Frozen baby food can be heated on the stove in a pan, or in the microwave. Always stir heated baby food, and always test baby food temperature before feeding it to the baby. You can use a clean finger to test the temperature, or you can taste the food.
Some fresh fruits lend themselves very well to being made into baby food: banana, avocado, peach, nectarine, mango, and the gooey interior of tomatoes. Baked Squash # and Baked Root Vegetables # also work reasonably well. And there are any number of foods that you might cook for yourself which can be mashed on your plate in tiny quantities to share with your baby.
Infants need to start with foods that are as as close as possible to the consistency of milk. Over time, the baby can be gradually introduced to foods that have a more lumpy consistency, such as mashed banana with no added water, followed by small bites of foods that require no chewing, such as Cheerios which have been broken into pieces. You can test small bites of food by holding it in your mouth. If, after holding it on your tongue for a short while, you can swallow it without chewing, then you can let your baby try it.
Be sure to read up on the Heimlich maneuver for infants before introducing solid foods.