Food is nice. Why wouldn’t babies enjoy it? Yep, that’s exactly what Isabel Mohan used to think…
For the first few months of their lives, babies do very little of note (sorry, mums of newborns. Your baby is UTTERLY ADORABLE but they’re also a bit boring). So when the time comes to give them solids, almost like they’re a functioning human rather than a weird little immobile alien, it all feels very exciting indeed. You plan to transform into a domestic goddess, with an adoring, appreciative baby gurgling at you from their highchair while you prepare lavish, perfectly balanced feasts. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the reality…
Stage 1: Excitement
“I can’t wait to get him on solids!” you tell all your mum friends. “It looks like so much fun!”. “Don’t be too excited,” says the wise one with older kids. “In fact, put it off for as long as possible.” But no: you’re adamant that weaning is going to be a total blast. Messy, sure, but what a hoot, what a milestone, what an adventure. Right?
Stage 2: Anticipation
First there will be an IKEA trip, for the obligatory Antilop highchair (and some of those long-sleeved bibs and loads of plastic spoons and why not buy a new sofa and 500 tealights while you’re there?).
There will be extensive research, as you pore over the entire works of Annabel Karmel, um and ah over baby-led weaning versus traditional weaning and ultimately decide to just kind of wing it.
And there will be lots and lots of tense conversations with well-meaning older relatives who don’t understand why you’re waiting until the NHS-advised six months, when they gave their baby a rusk while they were still in the womb and they turned out just fine and slept 28 hours a night at six days old.
Stage 3: The big day
And then the day will come when you’ll be ready to introduce that first solid. Into the highchair they go, in their pristine new bib. The kitchen is immaculate for the first time in months too, because god forbid a rogue cloth makes it into the background of the photo you’re going to Instagram the hell out of in a few minutes.
Stage 4: The anti-climax
Now here comes the mashed-up pear/sweet potato/nutritionally bereft baby rice you’ve lovingly prepared. Aaaaaand…. nothing. Literally no reaction, they’ve maybe ingested a speck and the rest lies dribbled out (traditional weaning) or discarded (baby led) in front of them. You share a picture anyway, captioned: “First taste of real food! He loved it!”. Granny replies “About time too! Bet he’ll sleep well tonight!” followed by some emojis that don’t make any sense.
Stage 5: Blind fear
Despite the fact that you have made sure there are no grapes within a three mile radius of your home, at some point during those first few weeks of weaning, your baby is going to gag on something, probably a rogue bit of bread that’s gone all gloopy in their useless toothless gob.
You never did get round to that baby first aid course, so you find yourself frantically searching YouTube for advice. You’ve only got as far as clammily unlocking your phone when you discover they’re now smiling at you while smearing yoghurt into their eyes. Crisis averted. But you revert to gooey food only for the next few days.
Stage 6: Frustration
You’re a couple of months in now and Becca from NCT’s baby is on three full meals and two healthy snacks a day. Knowing Becca from NCT’s baby, he probably cooks them himself. Meanwhile, your kid still doesn’t appear to have absorbed more than a few crumbs, apart from when you admitted defeat and gave them a shop-bought pouch, which they devoured.
Stage 7: Disgust
Right, so they’re eating OK now, but FLIPPING HECK WHAT IS THAT IN THEIR NAPPY? A cinnamon stick? Relax, it’s normal. Grim, but normal. It will sort itself out. In the meantime, you experiment with 27 different types of sippy cup to try and get them to drink more water.
Stage 8: Guilt
You cannot believe how much food is being wasted every day. Weetabix glued to the floor, pasta bakes you spent hours preparing festering by the sink with only 2.5 mouthfuls consumed, piles and piles of fruit rotting in the bowl because your plans to batch-cook and freeze stuff into ice trays are going about as well as the best-selling crime thriller you vowed to write on maternity leave. “Just give them whatever you’re having!” say your friends when you complain, seemingly unaware that you exist on a diet of Hob Nobs, Cup-a-Soups and frozen pizza.
Stage 9: Realisation
So, seriously, this is it now, making sure this kid gets fed three times a day is actually your responsibility for the next 18 years? And probably a few more years after that because they’re not going to be able to leave home until they’re 38 (#politics)? Man alive, this is tedious. Why didn’t you just listen to your mate with all the kids?