How to start your baby on solid foods

The transition from boobs to bowls is a major milestone. Here’s what you need to know.

Woman feeding her cute baby who is sitting in father's lap.

Boobs are awesome.

Not only do they provide men with things to occupy their hands while their penises are busy, but they also provide sustenance for the end result of that kind of nocturnal activity.

And that’s a very good thing – except they can’t provide sustenance forever, which means once your baby decides it wants something other than breastmilk (or formula – actually, when I say ‘breastmilk’, just assume I mean breastmilk and/or formula) for dinner, your grocery bill is going to increase.

The increase in your grocery bill is a downside. The upside is that in a few years, your son or daughter won’t need mum to pop up to school around lunchtime for what would be the most awkward lunch delivery in the world.

While starting solid food is exciting – it can also be something of a challenge. So, here’s a few tips to get things moving in the right direction.

Why your baby needs solids

When babies are born, they are evicted from the womb with a generous supply of iron built into their bodies. There’s enough in there to keep them going – provided they’re fed well by breastmilk.

However, those stores of iron deplete over the first four to six months of your bub’s development – and no amount of time on the boob will be able to keep up with the needs of their growing bodies.

Hence, new sources of nutrition are soon required – and that’s where solid food comes into play.

Now, ’solid’ food is something of a misnomer in the early stages of dietary change. When you begin introducing solid food, it’s mostly going to be things that come in a vaguely liquid form.

Think of it like a smoothie, but made out of fruits, vegetables and cereals – which sounds pretty gross, but is vital in getting the iron and other nutrients the baby will need.

It’s important to note here that this is a very gradual process – junior isn’t going from an all-breast diet to eating bacon and eggs (despite what some crackpot theories have recommended in the past) in the space of a few days.

They’ll go from ‘all boob’ to ‘mostly boob, and some mushed up fruit and veg’ to ‘mushed up fruit and veg, and a bit of boob’ over the course of about six months.

When to start solids

Generally, babies can manage a bit of solid grub somewhere between four and six months of age, but there are a few things that’ll tell you when your baby is ready.

First of all, your baby will need to have good head and neck control – so if bub’s still flopping about like someone blacking out in the back of a cab after a lengthy session on the turps, it’s not ready.

The most common sign is when they start paying attention to what you’re eating. That can be simply watching what you eat (reasonably intently) – or even reaching out and trying to pinch a chip from your plate like a fat little seagull.

The simplest way to test it is this: get a small amount of baby food – rice cereal mixed with breastmilk, or stewed apples are a good place to start – on a soft plastic spoon, and offer it to your baby. If their mouth opens, that’s a good sign.

If the food goes in when you put it there, that’s a better sign.

If the food comes out, don’t be discouraged – babies don’t really know how to eat, so just try again soon.

How to feed your baby

It’s pretty simple:

Put small amount of mushy food on the spoon.
Gently touch the edge of the spoon to the baby’s lip.
When they open their mouth, shove the spoon in.
Lift the end of the spoon you’re holding upwards, and let their gums and lips do the rest of the work.
Use the edge of the spoon to clean up anything on bub’s face that isn’t where it’s meant to be.
Return to step 1, until all the food is gone.

Needless to say, those six steps work best after you’ve laid a groundsheet down on the floor and put on splatter-resistant clothing. Because when you’re feeding a baby, food will go everywhere. This is an immutable law of nature – like gravity, death, and pacifiers always landing dummy side down.

My baby is choking! Help!

This is one of the biggest fears that new dads (and mums) have when they start their babies on solid food. It is uncommon – and I don’t want to scare you – but it can happen, so knowing what to do is extremely important.

Step 1: Lie the baby face down on your forearm, and give it five solid (but gentle – this isn’t MMA) blows between the shoulder blades. Check to see if that’s cleared the blockage.

Step 2: Lie the baby on its back, and using two fingers in the centre of its chest, give five sharp thrusts (again, solid but gentle). Check to see if that’s cleared the blockage.

Step 3: If that hasn’t cleared it, call 000 and repeat steps 1 and 2 until help arrives, or the baby becomes completely unresponsive.

The good news is that most of the time, a small blockage is easy to fix – provided you follow the steps above. So learn them – part of being a good dad is knowing what to do when things go wrong.

To that end, I highly recommend watching this video,  it’s only 2 minutes and it might save your baby’s life one day.

The benefits (for dads) of introducing solid food

Your baby moving onto solid food has at least four benefits for you as a dad.

The first is that it’s a major milestone – and a good sign that bub is on its way towards eating you out of house and home for the next 20 years. Congratulations!

The second is that you can start having more autonomy and responsibility as a parent, now that bub’s not so dependent on McBoobs for sustenance, and can start taking baby out on your own without having to cart around a backpack full of frozen breastmilk.

From my own experience, one of the best things my wife and I discovered was the pouches of pre-made baby food – they look disturbingly like single-serve pouches of cat food, but there’s a nozzle at the top so you don’t need to tip the food into a bowl.

The third benefit is that it’s an opportunity for you to take an even bigger role in feeding your child – by prepping meals and doing a bit more of the heavy lifting.

It takes about an hour to slice, stew and puree a few apples or pears, and divide the result into portions for freezing – and if you’re wondering how, here’s a quick how-to video.

Lastly, once bub’s off the boob, the boobs stop producing milk. And, unless you’re a lactation enthusiast, that can only be a good thing – because it’ll mean a resumption of normal husband-and-wife boob-related activity, without the risk of getting a stream of milk in your eye when it’s sexy time.

The downside (literally)

If you’ve had trouble dealing with a nappy full of poo up until this point, then I’m afraid this is where it gets a whole lot worse.

The introduction of solid food to your baby’s diet means they’ll start shitting in ever-increasing quantities – and because they’re eating things other than breastmilk, they’ll start crapping with the stench of a thousand porta-loos.

The guy in the below video illustrates this quite well.

A good tip here is to train yourself to hold your breath like a deep sea diver, or to arm yourself with a sophisticated breathing apparatus, because nappy time is about to start smelling like the south end of a north-bound camel.

Despite the increase in stench, it’s all totally worth it to witness your little one taking a hugely important step in their life.

You and the missus deserve a solid high-five for that.

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