Ben and I were about to take what turned out to be an overly-ambitious road trip (we called it quits after a couple of sleepless nights in Philadelphia), and I didn't want to start more complicated foods until we got back home. So he had nothing but rice cereal mixed with formula for about 10 days. I increased the cereal to formula ratio over that time, testing how solid I could make it and still have it be acceptable to him. He was ok with pretty solid goop pretty quickly.
So, where to go next? I felt kind of at sea about the next step. It seemed sensible to me to start with inherently mushy foods rather than non-mushy foods that would have to be further processed to be acceptable. So the first thing he got was sweet potato, simmered within an inch of its life and then mashed through a sieve. Big hit. Thumbs up for the sweet potato.
Next was avocado, mashed through the sieve raw (of course -- does one ever cook avocado?). Not so much of a hit, avocado. Foods of which he was skeptical were afterwards said to have gotten "avocado face." Then bananas. Then peas.
Around this time, he started really grabbing for the spoon, with which he was surprisingly dextrous for a six-month-old, but still resulted in a lot of mess. I experimented with sweet potatoes: I cooked the bejesus out of them, but didn't strain them. I'd already cut them into small cubes to freeze them (so that I could cook only what I wanted for a given meal), so I just cut the bigger cubes into smaller cubes, and tried giving them to him whole. They were extremely soft, so I didn't think they were a choking hazard, but I did expect him to struggle a little. Nope. It took him some time to get used to the sensation, but he was an immediate fan. I put one cube at a time into his mouth -- no fuss, no muss.
This opened the door to other mushy pieces of fruit and veg. I stopped mashing peas. I introduced granny-cooked green beans, microwaved blueberries, waterlogged broccoli, all in tiny pieces, from my fingers to his lips.
At this point, about a month into solids, he started getting three meals a day. Breakfast was cereal and a fruit, lunch cereal and a veg, and dinner cereal and a fruit and a veg. Each serving of cereal was about a tablespoon dry. Each fruit or veg was maybe a quarter of a cup. Some things I still mashed or stewed and gooed, but anything that could be fed in chunks was fed in chunks. We switched from rice cereal to baby oatmeal, and then to multigrain. He tried peaches, pears, carrots, corn, mangoes, apples. Plain, whole-milk yoghurt. Little strips of whole wheat bread (still a huge favorite -- he squeals when I take the baggie of bread pieces out of the fridge).
Sometime around seven and a half months, he started really lunging for the cups and plates of food I had until that point somewhat successfully kept hidden during mealtimes. He was ready to feed himself, thankyouverymuchMOM. Up to that point, I'd been feeding him in his Lionheart chair (like a Bumbo) on the kitchen counter, sitting directly in front of him. If he was going to start feeding himself, that set-up wasn't going to work.
I hauled a dining room chair into the kitchen and attached his booster seat. I figured I'd still be handing him most of the food, but he'd have small piles on his tray to play with. And heck, we have dogs who'd be delighted to clean up the windfalls. And sure, it took him a while to get the hang of delivering food to his mouth himself, but really, he got pretty damned good pretty damned fast. He already had a raking grasp at that point, and he quickly developed a sort of modified pincer, where he grabs pieces between his thumb and side of his bent index finger. It wasn't a a couple of weeks before I realized I wasn't feeding him at all anymore, except the few things he still got on a spoon (cottage cheese, stewed fruit, yoghurt).
At nearly nine months, he's eating dreary-ohs, zucchini with olive oil and herbs, several kinds of cheese, crackers, chicken, egg yolks, pineapple, oranges. At each meal, he generally gets two kinds of grains, two or three fruits or veg, one or two dairy or proteins, and a sippy cup of water, which he manages very well himself.
Last week, he and I ate lunch out with friends at an Indian restaurant, and he tried tandoori chicken and naan. Big smile for the tandoor.
Still no dice on avocado, though.
(Edit: I should have made it clear that he's been breastfeeding enthusiastically throughout.)