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Baby food is any food, other than breast milk or infant formula, that is prepared specifically for infants, approximately between the ages of 4 months to 2 years. The food comes in various kinds and tastes, can be produced by many manufacturers or may be table food that the rest of the family is eating, mashed up. For the reason that infants lack teeth, numerous baby foods are designed for ease of eating; they are either a soft liquidy paste or an easily chewed food.
Babies usually move to eating baby food once nursing or formula is not sufficient for the child's appetite. Babies do not need to have teeth to transition to eating solid foods. Teeth, however, generally do begin to show up at this age. Care must be taken with certain foods that pose a choking hazard, such as undercooked vegetables or food that may contain bones. Babies should begin eating liquid style baby food, sometimes mixed with rice cereal and formula or breast milk. Puréed vegetables and fruits are an example of liquid style baby food. Then, as baby is better able to chew, small, soft pieces or lumps may be included. Care must be taken, as babies with teeth have the ability to break off pieces of food but they do not have the back molars to grind, so anxious parents should carefully mash or break baby food into manageable pieces for the baby. Around 6 months of age, babies may begin to feed themselves (picking up food pieces with hands, using the whole fist or later the pincer grasp-thumb and forefinger) with help from parents.
It is often recommended to give baby solid food at around 6 months of age, but babies vary greatly. The only good way to know when to introduce baby food is to watch for signs of readiness in the child. Signs of readiness include the ability to sit without help, loss of tongue thrust and the display of active interest in food that other people are eating. Baby may be started directly on conventional family food if attention is given to choking hazards; this is referred to as baby-led weaning. Because breast milk takes on the flavour of foods consumed by the mother, these foods are particularly good choices.
If there is a family history of allergies, one may wish to introduce only one new food at a time, leaving a few days in between to notice any reactions that would point toward a food allergy or sensitivity. This way if baby is unable to tolerate a certain food then it can be determined which food is producing the reaction.
In the twentieth century, it was common to start infants on solid food from 4 months onwards; on the other hand, current research and Who/Unicef "Baby Friendly" guidelines recommend only breast milk until at least 6 months of age.