Breastfeeding has been one of the most difficult and rewarding experiences of my life. It’s intimate, it’s painful, it’s made me cry, and it’s the second-biggest sacrifice I’ve made with my body. Starting Gabe on solids, by contrast, has been easy, funny, and an experience that we’ve been able to share with friends and family.
I’d thought (before actually giving birth, of course, when I thought I knew everything) that I would refrain from giving Gabe solids until he was six months old. I’d feed him only organic, home-made food! He’d eat green beans with joy, and not touch fruit for months! This all went down the tubes when my mother-in-law slipped him some whipped cream when he was four months old. He loved it, and later that night, I attempted to feed him rice cereal. He wasn’t interested, so I let it go for another few weeks. In the interim, I spent most of my meals fending off small grabbing hands from my food and drinks, whether it was tea, pizza, apples, or beer. If it got near my mouth, Gabe wanted it in his. At four and a half months, I caved and served him his first actual foods: avocado blended with breastmilk. He enjoyed it hugely, but I don’t know if he liked the taste, the texture, or the fact that I stripped him down to his diaper in preparation for the mess.
I still wanted to try and avoid baby cereal, so the next food we tried was sweet potato puree and breastmilk. He loved it. Butternut squash with breastmilk? Loved it. Green beans with breastmilk? Loved it. Cereal and breastmilk? No thank you, Mama. Every time we fed him, it was the same process: spread a beach towel on the living room floor. Center the Bumbo in the middle of it. Grab the camera, strip Gabe to his diaper, and stick him in the seat. At first, he only managed to open his mouth half the time. When I actually managed to get food in his face, it was anybody’s guess if the food would stay in or dribble out as he smiled at me. Eventually, I’d get bored with mimicking airplane noises to make him open up, and just give him a pile of puree on his seat tray. He’d smear it around like finger paint, and then proceed to rub it all over himself. It was not uncommon to pull him out of the seat and find food on the back of his neck all the way to his toes. There would be food in places he couldn’t reach, there would be food hidden in the fat folds under his chin, there would be food in his eyebrows.
The Bumbo was outgrown within a month, but Gabe’s dedication to food (and the ensuing opportunity for mess) is unwavering. My commitment to only organic and home-made baby food, however, has wavered. There are bags of ice-cube-sized servings of fruit and veggie purees in my freezer, each carefully prepared by me with organic produce. When I think of it, I will blend two or three together (a favorite is mango-sweet potato-carrot). I’ve started buying organic jarred foods, and I don’t feel guilty about it. I don’t have the time to make a dozen tiny servings of unsalted pasta and veggies blended to a certain consistency, but Earth’s Best does.
In the past six weeks, we’ve moved on to a new frontier: finger foods. No longer limited to purees, Gabe is entering the wide world of baby snacks. Things like sweet potato puffs, or kale and spinach-flavored corn snacks (really, they’re Baby Cheesy Poofs). He gnaws through peeled apple slices, his two bottom teeth busily scraping his chosen target into oblivion. He loves unsalted rice cakes, their heft and size a perfect target for his inadvertent moist-handed destruction. When we have steak, he gets his own strip, which he sucks and gnaws. Pasta gets cut up and deposited on his high chair tray, where he can either eat it or fling it at the floor. Recently, he’s taken to swatting at the spoon as we feed him, desperate to learn how to maneuver it into his mouth on his own. He’ll attempt to snatch it from my hand and aim it towards his face”¦ though sometimes he ends up getting the handle in instead of the bowl. If it’s late in the day and we have enough stain remover in the laundry room, I let him.