At some point in my prenatal visits, one of the nurses took me aside and encouraged me, even if nursing proved to be difficult, to persevere because it really was worthwhile for the baby. This puzzled me, because I never thought it was that big of a deal, and sure enough, (for me at least) it always seemed like by far the easiest available option. Babies are born instinctively sucking, and who wants to get up and fix a bottle at 2 a.m.?
What the nurse should have warned me about was the perseverance needed to introduce a baby to solid foods. Let us consider a sample encounter:
1:45 p.m. Mom decides to start Baby on sweet potatoes. She peels and chops a sweet potato and puts it on the stove to cook. (Yes, jars would be easier but I can't bring myself to spend the money and distrust the nutritional content. I was going to save the sweet potatoes until I was cooking them for dinner anyway, but she was so hungry I thought I should speed things up.)
1:55 p.m. Mom gets Baby up and starts nursing her. They sing Christmas carols together. All is well.
2:20 p.m. Mom smells smoke.
2:25 p.m. Mom decides that the tops of the sweet potato chunks are still OK; scrapes them off and mashes them. Baby eats toys.
2:30 p.m. Mom puts Baby in high chair, rolls up sleeve, and puts on the largest and most stained bib.
2:31:00 p.m. Mom puts spoonful of sweet potatoes in Baby's mouth.
2:31:15 p.m. Baby makes strange face and gagging sounds.
2:31:30 p.m. Mom wonders if Baby is really ready for solid food.
2:32:00 p.m. Mom decides to try another spoonful and loads it up.
2:32:15 p.m. Large chunk of slobbery sweet potato emerges from Baby's mouth. Mom tries, vainly, to catch it with the already-full spoon before it splatters on the bib.
2:32:30 p.m. Baby makes cooing sounds and opens mouth for more food.
2:32:45 p.m. Mom scrapes what she can off the bib and mouth and resubmits it.
2:33-2:36 p.m. Repeat.
2:37 p.m. Baby decides to chew on thumb. Gets sweet potato all over hand, whence it rapidly spreads to sleeve and tray.
2:38-2:40 p.m. More of the same. Baby chews some on the other thumb, too.
2:41 p.m. Mom looks at fragments remaining in bowl, on bib, face and hands, and concludes that a small portion of sweet potato may have been swallowed. She waits for baby to finish processing last bite and ponders whether it makes more sense to take the bib off first, allowing the face to contaminate the clothes, or to wipe the face off first, allowing the bib to recontaminate the face.
2:43 p.m. Confident the last bite has been swallowed, Mom manages to get the bib off and face washed without too much cross-contamination. Mom gives baby toys and sets about straightening the kitchen.
2:45 p.m. Baby spits last bite of sweet potato all over toys and clothes.