In the life of a new parent there is nothing more exciting than that special time in their life when you can begin feeding your baby solids. For months you wondered if that high chair tucked in the corner of your kitchen would ever be used and imagined the peach stained lips and pursed lips of your infant as they got their first taste of real food (if you can call it that). For most this time comes at around the 4 month mark when the pediatrician finally gives the green light to go ahead and offer the spoon. Although exciting it is also a bittersweet moment that shouts ‘my baby is growing up.’ Don’t worry, they still have a long way to go!
Today’s parent usually puts a lot of preparation into the event, setting up a tri-pod in the kitchen to catch the first reactions, brightening lights and inviting every relative within driving distance to come witness the event. Baby is dressed in their finest bib and cleanest diaper propped in the high chair with towels to keep from slumping out of sight while mom is holding her breath; hoping that baby will put on a good show without falling asleep. The weeks and months of anticipation can make this a production comparative to a motion picture movie shoot and then…the baby spits the food right out acting as if they have no idea how to chew or swallow without the inclination or desire to finish off a spoonful, let alone a 4 ounce bowl. This is usually when dad chimes in saying “I wouldn’t eat that stuff either, how about some salty mashed potatoes instead” and mom screams “the doctor said NO TABLE FOOD!” This drama will continue to play out for months. Either your husband or mother in law will relentlessly try to feed, overfeed or offer foods that you really rather wish they wouldn’t have like candy, cakes, ice cream and yes, even hot wings!
Eventually the pasty white cereal goes down the hatch and shortly after the meal time concoctions are full of color, pizzazz and excitement as baby is delivered completely bland pureed fruits and veggies that somehow all taste the same. They smile and wiggle with anticipation at the thought of the spoon, squish their hands in their plate and of course wipe it all over themselves, the high chair and whomever is in reaching distance. This leads to the first real bath experiences as well where the routine bubble and suds is actually intended to be cleansing as well as relaxing. Once you begin feeding your baby solids you realize just how easy you had it beforehand. Now you can’t eat in front of the baby without them wanting your food, you can’t go to the park or a poolside party without figuring out a way to pop out the jars and have to find suitable situations that are conducive to messy meal time menus in order to satisfy your fussy baby!
If you have ever tasted the baby food (which undoubtedly you have) you wonder how in the world your baby is able to gain any weight (which they do). You have probably even contemplated going on the baby food diet and have at least once polished off the bananas or peaches (which really aren’t that bad). Feeding your baby solids opens up a whole new world of baby care that forever changes their maintenance and unfortunately their diapers. This is about the time you begin to realize who in your family has a horrific gag reflex or who can momentarily become busy or disappear the minute your baby turns red. Usually they won’t come back for quite a while. You also realize why the diaper genie was invented and what all those plastic refuse bags are about that sit next to the nasty germ infested local changing stations!
Most first time parents will begin to show their vegetarian alter ego and become psychotic health nuts spending fortunes on ‘organic’ or other wise healthier foods that they would have never considered buying before just to make themselves feel adequate and to try and impress the pediatrician. You can spot them at restaurants ordering ridiculously healthy and bland dishes for baby while they chow down on the Pig plate Special and Fries! Don’t worry though – as annoying as these people can be; they too will succumb to the Happy Meals in just a few short months, especially when they realize that compromising the quality of the food for the eagerness to eat and tiny toy waiting inside are truly worth the fat, calories and carbs! (Especially while in the car).
Feeding a baby solids is one of those things that is great when it works and worrisome when it doesn’t. Babies go through hourly phases in life and will sometimes eat nothing but squash for two weeks and then give it up altogether for the disgusting pureed meat varieties. Then they will transition to phases where you can barely get a spoonful in and parents begin worrying about whether their child is eating enough. The rule of thumb here is not to develop food pushing tendencies. Kids eat when they are hungry and don’t eat when they are not! This is a useful facet of human nature that is productive and healthy later in life and children (even babies) should be encouraged to know ‘when to say when!” Ignore the grandmothers who would rather see the poor little baby eat something than nothing and will eagerly (and often secretly) offer a bowl of chocolate ice cream just to ensure they ate enough! Essentially once you swerve away from the baby food market it is a difficult thing to return to. Salt, sugar, spices and the flavors of regular food make for interesting feeding times and completely change the undeveloped pallet of your baby!
Once the solids are offered there is one thing that every parent must try at least once. If only to get a shot at winning the 10 grand on the funniest home video shows; offer your baby a lemon or lime! The expression on their face is priceless and their willingness to try it again and again; over and over – either reveals the truth about how baby food tastes or their complete ignorance for taste itself. On the other hand, that was probably evident to you the first time you caught them with dog food or carpet fuzz in their mouth as they screamed hysterically when you took it away. Feeding baby solids is just a phase; soon they will be feeding themselves – so enjoy it while you can!