When is the appropriate time to introduce your baby to table food?
I am very glad you are asking this question, as the American Academy of Pediatrics has updated their longstanding solid food feeding recommendations as of January 2011. While holding off on introducing solid foods until 4 to 6 months (except in specific, doctor-recommended situations) remains the same, what has changed is which foods you should start with.
For as long as I can remember, parents have been advised to start with baby cereal (usually rice cereal) and gradually progress to fruits and vegetable baby foods (with the longstanding question of whether one needs to introduce vegetables first to avoid the sweeter fruits from overshadowing their acceptance). The fact of the matter, however, is that there is no medical evidence to suggest that introducing solid foods in any particular order is best. Not only does this lack of evidence answer the age-old question of whether you need to introduce vegetables before fruits (since doing so hasn't been shown to make a difference to future vegetable consumption), but it also means that holding off to introduce pureed meats is no longer necessary or, for that matter, recommended. Given that there is clear nutritional benefit to feeding babies pureed meats because they offer valuable iron and zinc, pureed meats are now also recommended as an important first food for 4- to 6- month-olds, right alongside baby cereals (which serve as the other valuable source of iron in babies' diets).
While most parents who ask about timing are referring to the 4- to 6-month recommendation, the other aspect of timing a baby's introduction to first foods also relates to the question of when in the day is best to do so. I've found that it helps to remember that introducing your baby to solid foods isn't just a feeding process, but also a learning process. Like any other learning process, I suggest you sit down with your baby when both of you are well rested (or at least relatively so) and ready to be patient, try new things, and have fun. Be sure you're both prepared to get messy, and give it some time. Some babies take to solid foods like fish to water. Others may take a bit longer to warm up to anything new that is put in their mouth—in other words, anything that doesn't involve warm liquids delivered by breast or by bottle.