His head may be smooshed from his journey through the birth canal, and he might be sporting a “bodysuit” of . He could also be puffy-faced and have eyes that are often shut (and a little gooey). After all, he just spent nine months in the womb. But pretty soon, he’ll resemble that beautiful baby you imagined.

New studies show when babies are transitioning from milk to food, it’s important they pick up the food and feed themselves. Rhonda Harper, a lactation consultant with Lee Health, says the Academy of Pediatrics recommends milk feeding until the baby is six months old, then introducing the baby to soft foods. “Babies will pick up and bring to their mouth and keep in their mouth what they can manage.

There’s concern about choking because you’re not using puréed foods. Really, there’s no more risk in allowing them to feed themselves soft foods than there is with associated in spoon feeding.” Health experts recommend starting the baby on foods like banana and avocado, and avoiding foods with added salts, heavy spices, or vinegars. “Waiting until six months, the big piece there is the baby’s gut needs to be ready to digest it. They need to have the enzymes available and they’re not there between birth and six months,” said Harper. Feeding the baby too soon also poses a risk for food allergies and digestive issues. “Always being present when they’re feeding is a safety—not to load the tray and turn your back to prepare another meal. Don’t put anything into their mouth, let them put it into their mouth,” said Harper.

Health experts say moms may decide to breastfeed longer than six months. “We should not be encouraging moms, who have chosen to breastfeed, we should not be encouraging them to wean at one year. There’s no magic associated with one year and there are mountains of evidence to support them continuing to breastfeed into toddlerhood and it becomes their decision,” said Harper. Typically, the baby will let mom know when to wean. Whatever the mom decides, it’s important parents listen to their babies during feeding.