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"even the experts don't agree on the best time to begin," says Marianne Neifcrt, M.I)., author of Great Expectations: The Essential Guide to Breastfeeding. Breastfeeding advocates recommend exclusive nursing for the first 6 months, but plenty of moms will tell you their kids were ready for solid food sooner (and contrary to earlier findings, starting at 4 months does not up your baby's risk for allergies). "Fol-lowyour baby's cues," recommends Dr. Neifert. Signs he's ready: He watches longingly when you eat, holds his head steady when he sits upright, and no longer sticks his tongue out when you place food on it, "Just don't start early because you think it will make him sleep through the night." That's a myth, says Dr. Neifert.

Bottom line: Anytime within the 4- to 6-month window really is fine, though you may want to wait until closer to 6 months if you're breastfeeding exclusively. U

Patty Onderko is a contributing editor.

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New Mothers Guide to Breast Feeding

New Mothers Guide to Breast Feeding

For many years, scientists have been playing out the ingredients that make breast milk the perfect food for babies. They've discovered to day over 200 close compounds to fight infection, help the immune system mature, aid in digestion, and support brain growth - nature made properties that science simply cannot copy. The important long term benefits of breast feeding include reduced risk of asthma, allergies, obesity, and some forms of childhood cancer. The more that scientists continue to learn, the better breast milk looks.

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