Solid food! It’s exciting, it’s all curiously orange, and it’s a big step on the developmental highway – one many parents look forward to (especially if you’re getting just a little tired of impersonating a dairy heiffer). Following a few tentative early experiments with baby rice we started Scarlett on more regular solid foods in early March, and I’m here to tell you about the wonders of solidity after months of liquid lunches.
1. Dinnertime suddenly takes forever again
I cannot tell a lie: if you have got your breastfeeding routine down to a simple shirt-open-baby-on-guzzle sort of affair, then it can be a bit of a shock to the system (and to any kind of routine you hitherto had in place) to find mealtimes require thirty minutes again instead of seven. It’s like those bad old newborn days have returned, only this time instead of being pinned to the sofa underneath a nursing infant, you’re all trapped in the kitchen while your baby tries to work out how to work her tongue and gums and whatever teeth she has and get the food from mouth to stomach. It’s harder than you think, see? In fact it’s all rather fascinating when you have the time and patience for it; but it’s vital not to start a solids meal within an hour of any actual appointments you need to get to.
Ironically, I have a vivid memory from when she was about two weeks old: me being fed a toasted cheese sandwich by my doting husband while I was nursing her (when it was still a bit of a palaver), and thinking “If only I could feed you this toastie it would save us all a lot of time and effort.” All I can say is: not yet it doesn’t.
2. Dinnertime suddenly costs money
In a further shock to the system, especially if you’ve been breastfeeding effectively for free (well, maybe for the cost of an additional calorie or two but frankly you save that money in not drinking), starting on solids costs actual money. If you’re being very good and Earth-mothery and pureeing, mashing or slicing your own finger foods for baby-led weaning then you need to buy something nice and fresh from the greengrocer; if you’re a bit pushed for time or think Ella’s Kitchen might be able to concoct something tastier than you can, you need to buy a little pouch or a jar. Suddenly, having a baby costs 80p every time you go to the shops, where before it didn’t really. Plus all those cocktails you can drink now don’t buy themselves.
3. The mess is extraordinary
Even what you might have previously thought of as the cleanest foods can make an extraordinary mess. Plain toast? You’ll be picking crumbs out of the high chair seat for days. Sauce-free pasta? Amazing what a state that gets into once it’s been slightly chewed and spat across the kitchen at high velocity. Anything that was once a vegetable? You’ll be finding it on the walls and worksurfaces for weeks. Feeding your baby solids makes twice as much mess as you’d expect, even taking that expectation into consideration. And why is everything such a bright shade of orange? I don’t know anything in nature that colour, unless you count maybe some kind of radioactive isotope.
4. The nappies! My god, the nappies
I remember Darien remarking in early January how Scarlett’s dirty nappies didn’t actually smell all that unpleasant – they actually smelled rather sweet, a bit like fudge. This is supposedly particularly true of breastfed babies; you put something rather like condensed milk in, you get something rather like processed condensed milk out. If your newborn’s dirty nappy smells offensive, that’s a red flag and it’s time to go to the GP.
Please note this all changes once you get onto solids. Your baby’s dirty nappies will no longer smell like fudge, they will smell like dirty nappies. It will also be alarmingly easy to identify what you fed your baby the day before.
(Addendum: all the parents who have fed their babies beetroot say that the resulting nappies really are as spectacular as you might imagine).
5. Going back to work? Here’s another reason not to do it now
Thinking of returning to work around the six-month mark? Starting solids really kind of militates against this unless you have someone else to do it all for you. The classic work in the genre, Annabel Karmel’s Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner seems to assume you can literally spend every hour of every day shopping, cooking and serving food to your baby. It’s not that the recipes are complex, per se, more that you need the headspace to have the right ingredients in the house and then (for new eaters) have enough time to peel, chop, steam, puree if necessary and get the food into your baby. By the time you’ve cleared up breakfast, it’s time to start prepping for the two-course lunch service. There’s simply no time to have a job as well.
6. All that said, solids are kind of fun
Scarlett has been having lots of exploratory fun with different tastes, textures and, how best to say this, tactile properties. She’s already quite the pro at getting spoons and finger foods into her mouth, and it’s fun trying out the various recipes (when I have space in the schedule to cook) or pouches (when I don’t). And our kitchen is turning some fascinating new colours.
Probably, in a few short weeks we’ll all have our solid-foods-fu down to a fine art and I’ll be able to whip up a five-star baby souffle in a matter of minutes for her to consume in a mess-free instant. But as with so many baby-related things we’re temporarily back in the starting blocks while she and I learn the requisite new skills. Give us a month or so on that.
Got a favourite baby recipe? Lob it over to us from a cutely-coloured plastic spoon, or leave it in the comments below.