"How should I start weaning my baby?" This is the question first-time mothers often ask.

According to different health and medical books, starting on the fourth or fifth month, parents need to supplement their baby's all-milk diet. From here on, milk alone cannot provide the special needs of an infant's rapidly growing body. It is also at this time that the baby's taste buds begin to develop. So it would be easy for him to accept new tastes and textures.

However, the milk diet, especially breastfeeding, should continue as long, as the baby wants it or up to 30 months.

It is also important to remember that infants are different from rush their babies into a new diet unless they need it or are ready for it. So, when is the appropriate time? And how do you know your baby is ready for weaning?

The child's weight, appetite and daily activities will determine the right time to start weaning. If your baby's weight has almost doubled since birth or when he seems hungry most of the time, demanding another feeding before the usual schedule, you can start weaning.

Some mothers wait until the baby gets his first tooth. This is more of a traditional myth. In fact, by the time the baby's first tooth starts coming out, it may become very difficult to introduce new food to him. This is because his taste buds had grown accustom to certain tastes and food textures. Delaying the introduction of supplementary food beyond the sixth month may also cause babies to suffer from anemia and malnutrition.

Weaning a baby for the first time is not an easy task. It needs patience and timing. Start with just a teaspoonful (or better yet, use a baby spoon). Then gradually work it up as his appetite increases. This will give him time to like the new food.

A baby taking his first teaspoonful of semi-solid foods won't really know how to eat it. Most of the food will end up on his chin and you will have to scoop it back into his mouth. Again, a lot will be squeezed out. Don't be discouraged. It takes time for him to adjust.

Eventually, the baby will get used to it. Consider his feeding time as a happy experience and he will associate eating with pleasure. Try out one new food at a time to make weaning a lot of fun for him.

For his first supplementary food, a cereal congee mixed with mashed fruits and light vegetables is the best. Fish fillets and beans could be added as protein sources. Do not use too much sugar and salt on your baby's diet. About 20 percent of your normal taste dosage is about right. Too much sugar or salt will upset your baby's balance of taste, aside from their unhealthy effects on his still fragile digestive and circulatory system. In fact you can do without sugar if the food is already naturally sweetened by the added fruits, or salt if the added protein has already been salted.

Introducing sorts of different tastes - starting from pale, then alkalinic, then bitter, then sour, then salty, then sweet and alternating them ever so often - to your five-month-old baby is excellent weaning procedure. This way, as the child grows older, his taste buds will be familiarized to the different tastes. A four-year-old child, for example, who hates to eat bitter gourd most likely dissociated himself with the bitter taste because it was not introduce to him during the development of his taste buds. The same is true for those who hate the pungent smell and taste of garlic and onion.

Consider also the proper amount of nutrients for your child. Just like adults, babies need a balance diet to have healthy mind and body. Don't always believe on the advertisement of baby food products. Make a research on the real nutritional contents of the foods you give to your baby.

What about the milk diet? Sometimes, a child reaches two years old and still relies on breastfeeding or bottled milk to sleep at night. He takes in solid foods but delays putting the nipple away. A habit that you should gradually (not abruptly) discourage.

If there's only water in the bottle, it would cause him no physical harm. Dentists, however, seem to be concerned about milk's efffects on babies' teeth if given before bedtime. This precaution may be responsible for the trend toward pacifier use.

Never overfeed your child at night just to avoid giving him the bottle. It is not a proper way of discouraging his sucking habit. This is another myth. In a sense it is even harmful to the child as it may cause indigestion.

Proper weaning is essential to a child's health. So, take care to do it properly. "It's weaning time!"