(This piece has liberal inputs from Wifey)
Its a blur believe me - feels like just yesterday that the doctor was showing you your cute little bundle of joy, doesn't it? And here's your little princess who has left behind her 18 hours-a-day sleep schedule and is now making your pray 'if only she would sleep for an hour more during the day'.
Babies at 5-6 months are handful. They try to wriggle out of your hands, make attempts to sit, roll over even if they are close to the edge of a bed - in short, do everything to keep you on your toes ALL the time. But they make up for it all by letting out cute little laughter and flashing ULTRA-BEAUTIFUL smiles. Ah, the joy of hearing them laugh, seeing their smiling faces!
One other thing they learn at this age is eating solid food. So far they had milk-on-demand and the change to solids is a big step for them. How do you know when to get them started on solids? It is not very tough really. Notice them staring at you intently when you eat your food or drink a juice or making chomping motions with their jaws when food is around or reaching out to grab 'good-looking' foods? Yes? Well then they are ready for solids. The thumb rule alway is Pull is better than Push. Let them ask for it before you start shoving stuff into their cute little mouths.
Now, the big question is - what do you give them that can substitute for the wonder that is Mother's milk? If you think, since they have been on tasteless milk they wouldn't be choosy, you're doubly mistaken. For one, milk is not tasteless - it takes the flavor of what you eat and also changes its composition and texture based on your baby's age and believe-it-or-not their hunger. So, your baby might actually know pasta milk from curd-rice milk and have clear cut preferences already on solid foods :)
Just the way it is not really necessary to feed babies formula EVER, it is also not necessary to get them used to ready made foods also (Gerber?). Take it as a dry run for future cooking for an additional person, start slowly (how else, given the tiny amounts the little ones consume?) and experience the joy of making something for them every day. You can go into raptures watching them lap up hungrily the food you cooked. Enjoy it while you can, before they start talking and complaining.
Here are some items that you can pressure-cook for them daily. Of course, you can vary the items and ingredients based on the little one's likes and dislikes.
1. Cereal: Visit any organic store and pick up white rice flour, brown rice flour and barley flour. You do not want to add Wheat flour, Bean flour, Lentils and Legumes till they are 9 months or older. Mix the flour with water, 5 teaspoons of water for 1 teaspoon of flour, and pressure cook them alongside your food.
2. Vegetables: Small pieces of Tomatoes, Peas, Spinach or String beans can be added to the above cereal in small quantities. Mash the vegetable well before mixing with the soaked flour. You do not want to add Root vegetables just yet.
3. Fruits: Apple and Pear (till they are 8 months) are ideal. Since the fruits have enough water in themselves, don't add more than 1 tsp to one-sixth piece of an Apple/Pear. Cooked Plums, Peaches, Nectarines can wait till 9 months. Uncooked fruits can start soon after they get their milk teeth.Give them as much variety with the above as possible, thankfully they are not too fastidious yet.