By: Tiffany Pitts

For babies just getting ready for solid food, nutrition can present a new set of challenges. The milestone of chewing solid food, usually happening between four and six months, opens up a whole world of exciting sensations, textures, and tastes for every child. It's also the time they stop mouthing and take a big first step towards the independence of feed themselves. But what food is the best to give baby in these early days?

Babies usually signal you when they're ready for solid food. Their birth weight has doubled, and you may find them grabbing at the food you eat at the dinner table. For obvious reasons, the first solid food a baby eats is usually a weak mush of rice or oatmeal mixed with breast milk. Over time, you can make the mixture thicker. Be careful, though, to notice any allergies to barley or wheat the baby may present. Remember that breast milk or formula should constitute the liquid part, at least until the baby reaches his or her first birthday. 

When the baby reaches six months, parents should begin cautiously including solid foods into feeding time. The solids should mostly include fruits and vegetables such as bananas, carrots and peas - soft, easily chewed or mashed substances that won't startle baby's palette. Vegetables are also rich in vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants that help baby grow and develop a strong immune system. Carrots are especially useful during this time, as the Vitamin A helps baby’s vision strengthen. Foods that are chewy, such as peanut butter, should be avoided until the child reaches two years.

There are a variety of ways to maximize your baby's nutrition during this all-important first year. First, you might consider buying organic. Vegetables and grains made without help of commercial pesticides or artificial chemicals allow your baby's delicate digestive system to remain pure while he or she makes the transition to the toddler years. An exception to this suggestion is fresh produce grown in the soil, such as carrots, beets, spinach, and collard greens. These may contain nitrates that could lead to anemia in small children. Canned vegetables and vegetables prepared by food companies have been screened for nitrates prior to their arrival in stores.

You may also consider mixing up your vegetables with one another. For example, oranges contain Vitamin C and that peas are rich in Vitamin B - why not combine them for a double shot of nutrition? Finding vegetables that complement each other's taste will largely depend on what your child likes, but don't be afraid to mix it up.
As with all baby care issues, consult your family's pediatrician with any questions regarding fine-tuning your child's nutritional development. Take your time and do research, especially online, to determine which brands of baby food and what vegetables offer the optimum benefit, both in this first eating period and as your child matures.