Feeding babies something other than breast milk or formula is a brand new experience for both parent and child. There's a lot more than just plunking them in a chair and serving up a spoonful. Here are some suggestions to help with the transition:

1. Put them at the table.

Even before they eat table food, babies really watch what their parents and siblings during dinner, and it's clear they're interested in that stuff going in everyone's mouth. Put them in a high chair, or hold them in your lap, and let them hang around for the family meal. Use that time to give them a baby-safe, pliable spoon or teething ring. Being at the table helps them get used to the structure of eating at the table with the family, and introduces them to table manners.

2. When possible, use the same food the family is eating.

There is a lot of marketing for packaged baby food like special crackers, jarred combinations, and bite-sized snacks. It's all food. Mash it, puree it, or cut it up in tiny bits. Just make sure you are close to your child and feeding him carefully. Babies just learning to eat will often hold food in their mouth, rolling it around. Make sure little mouths are empty before giving them more.

3. Try foods one at a time for several days.

This is the general recommendation from doctors — just in case there are any unusual reactions to certain types of foods. There are a few foods you may want to avoid altogether until your child is out of infancy, but some medical professionals now say such avoidance isn't necessary. Follow the advice of your child's doctor. If you need ideas, use this chart as a starting point: Age-by-age guide to feeding your baby.

4. Put a pocket bib on your baby.

It won't catch everything, but it will help a little with the mess.

5. Be patient.

Children with normal development will get the hang of holding food in their mouth and getting it down. As they get older, place small bits of food in front of them so they can practice picking it up and putting it in on their own. Yes, much of it will end up on the floor. See #4.

6. Don't stop feeding a food just because your baby doesn't appear to like it.

Do feel free to take a break, and then come back to it a few days later.

7. Don't assume bland is best.

Babies the world over eat all kinds of foods. If yours is repeatedly spitting out what you are serving, add a little flavor. Mix mild salsa with mashed avocado, and don't be afraid to season those mashed potatoes before serving them to your little eater.

Note: The general recommendation is to start feeding infants food at around 6 months of age. Other indicators include making sure your child can hold up his head, and sit with support. I'm not a health or medical professional, so please make sure you check with your child's doctor for her recommendation on this and any of the other suggestions listed in this article.