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Switching to solids: The best and worst foods for babies beginning to eat

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MILWAUKEE -- It's a big moment for baby -- and one parents are usually eager to try. Dr. Jennifer Thomas joins Real Milwaukee to talk about first foods -- and how to know when you baby is ready.

Here are some milestones parents should wait for:

1. Baby can sit up well without support.
2. Baby has lost the tongue-thrust reflex and does not automatically push solids out of his mouth with his tongue.
3. Baby is ready and willing to chew.
4. Baby is developing a 'pincer' grasp, where he picks up food or other objects between thumb and forefinger. Using the fingers and scraping the food into the palm of the hand (palmar grasp) does not substitute for pincer grasp development.
5. Baby is eager to participate in mealtime and may try to grab food and put it in his mouth.

Choking is something that all parents should keep in mind, but with a little preparation, many foods are safe for babies.

• Stay close. At this point, eating should be a spectator sport, with you closely watching every bite your son takes.
• Start small. Cut food into pieces fine enough that your baby can swallow them whole if he doesn't spend any time gumming them (enthusiastic eaters often gulp them down).
• Get bigger slowly. As your baby gets used to eating pieces of soft, solid food (and as you get more comfortable watching him eat them successfully), gradually move up — from minced to chopped to small cubes.
• Keep the portions baby-sized. Place only one or two chunks at a time on his plate or tray so he doesn't stuff in more than he can handle.
• Baby see, baby do. Encourage your baby to "chew" by showing him how you chew your food (babies love to mimic their parents).
• Stay seated. Not you, but the baby. Offer finger foods to your baby only when he's sitting down — not crawling, cruising, or toddling around. Eating on the run isn't just bad manners; it's unsafe for the inexperienced eater.
• Stay safe. Never feed a child under three such common choking hazards as raw carrot, popcorn, nuts, or hot dogs.

What are the best foods to start with?
Some great first foods include:

1. Sliced bananas
2. Avocado slices
3. Cooked peas
4. Small, peeled peach chunks
5. Shredded, cooked chicken
6. Cheerios or other small, multi-grain cereal
7. Cut-up, cooked pasta
8. Cooked carrots
9. Sliced cheese
10. Small bites of low-mercury fish like tilapia

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