The transition from breast or bottle to solids is a magical time. It is a time for discovery, imagination and re-assessing your own ideas of what constitutes cleanliness in your house.
If you are just about to take the first steps down this wild path, you’ve come to the right place. As a parent who has been studying this process for the past three months, I know everything there is to know about starting a baby on solids. So take out a pen and scribble some notes into your parenting notebook. (You do have a parenting notebook, don’t you?)
Preparation is key to success
One of the only things I remember from being in Cubs (the precursor to Boy Scouts… yes I was that kid… don’t judge me) is be prepared. This is advice I have almost never followed throughout the rest of my life. Except now. Now that I’m a parent and have responsibilities, I’m beginning to see the value in this advice.
How to best prepare for solids?
- Decide which room in your house you least care about. This will now be known as “the eating room”. Try to make sure it is close to the kitchen, a garden hose and it is not carpeted. If the walls are partially tiled even better. If you only have carpeted room, invest in a good-quality tarpaulin.
- Remove anything that can’t easily be wiped down from the room. Think that artwork hanging high on the wall is out of “the splash zone”? Think again. If you must have something hanging there, consider replacing it with an abstract, because if that gets splattered in pureed turnip, you won’t be able to tell the difference anyway.
- Buy a hard plastic high chair. If it has a comfortable cushioned seat, remove it immediately and throw it out. Trust me on this. You don’t want to get your baby accustomed to comfortable padding that you then have to wash after every meal. She will be perfectly happy sitting on the hard plastic if she doesn’t already know any better.
- Invest in a heavy-duty blender/stick mixer. In the early days you will most likely have to turn everything into a fine paste. Why? Because for a baby, texture is king. He won’t care what it tastes like (at least to begin with), he’ll just be interested in whatever is easiest to slurp down. After all, it’s really difficult to chew through a steak when you only have one tooth.
- Invest in ice cube trays. This way you can cook in bulk and have easy-to-use portions readily available in your freezer. This will save you a lot of time in the long run. Alternatively you can buy pre-prepared baby food, but it will cost you a lot more.
- Buy the cheapest vegetables and meats you can find. Your baby won’t know the difference between pumpkin and kale, she’ll just slurp down whatever she finds easiest. You’re going to blend it beyond all recognition anyway.
- Cook vegetables or meat in boiling water until they are soft enough for your grandma in the nursing home to consume (after all, she has the same number of teeth as your baby). Strain off excess water and place in the blender. Blend until unrecognisable as food. Your baby will love it.
- Buy paper towel in bulk. Never, ever walk past a special on paper towel at the supermarket. Even if you already have a garage full of the stuff, that’s only going to last you a week. Stock up on it like a doomsday prepper stocks up on canned corn and shotgun rounds.
Now that you are fully prepared for your solids experience, it’s time to begin.
- Place baby in high chair and secure him firmly in place with supplied harness. This is important. Your five-month-old may be sitting like a sack of spuds right now, but soon enough he will be doing his best to try and fall out. Stay one step ahead of the game and get used to doing this up from the beginning.
- Wrap baby in a smock or small tarpaulin. If it is warm weather, just remove all clothes and allow baby to eat in nothing but a nappy.
- Take frozen cubes out of freezer and place in the microwave for 30 seconds. You’ll be surprised how quickly the sound of a microwave becomes like the bell to Pavlov’s dogs. Your baby will start looking at you accusingly when the microwave is used to heat up anything other than her food.
- Take food out of microwave to find it still half frozen. Place back in for another ten seconds.
- Marvel at how a microwave can turn shards of ice into mouth-scorching soup in just ten seconds. Put bowl aside and allow to cool while baby becomes agitated about not receiving food (he heard that ‘ding’ and he knows what it means).
- Test the food for appropriate temperature, then use a small plastic spoon to insert into baby. The first few times you do this, your child will be surprised and confused. She will not yet have figured out that there is a hole back there, so be prepared for the puree to enter, slush around for a while, then come back out the mouth. Be ready with the spoon to gently push it back in. Repeat many, many times.
- When baby begins to scream, stares blankly in the opposite direction, spits spoonful straight back out or slumps over to the point where he is folded in half, feeding time is over. Gently remove baby from the high chair and brush, wipe or, in extreme cases, hose down.
- Find a safe place for baby to play or sleep. Return to high chair for cleaning.
- Look at high chair and consider incinerating and buying a new one. Decide that would be too expensive, so use a small forest-worth of paper towel to wipe up the mess instead.
- Wonder how it was possible that more food came out of baby than went in.
- Wonder if baby is going to starve due to inability to find the down hole.
- Hose down floor and walls, ceiling only if necessary (once a week should do).
- Repeat every four hours.
What comes next?
Eventually your baby will get the hang of eating solids. She will find the down hole at the back of her throat and realise that letting at least a little puree run down it is good for her. When this happens, feeding will become easier and slightly cleaner. Then will come time for finger foods. And you thought purees were messy…