Making Your Own Baby Food
There are lots of ready to feed brands of baby food on the market now. Some are even organic. But there are good reasons to make your own! Homemade baby food is less expensive, you can use food that you have on hand, and you can use organic ingredients. It doesn’t take much time to prepare—all you need are a saucepan and a food grinder, food processor, or blender. Some foods, like bananas, can just be mashed with a fork. There is even a special machine available that will both cook the food and then puree it.
Store the baby food in small containers that will hold one or two servings. Be sure to label the containers with the name of the food and when it was prepared. You can refrigerate baby food for up to 3 days, or you can freeze the food. It is best to not microwave baby food, as this can destroy some of the nutrients in the food and also can create hot spots, which can burn the baby’s mouth. Put the frozen food in the refrigerator to defrost. Some parents like to use ice cube trays to freeze the baby food. You can just pop out a portion or two when you are ready to feed.
How do you know if your baby is ready for solids? Most babies are around 6 months of age when they are ready for solid foods, although some babies are ready as early as age 4 months. If your baby is formula-fed and he is taking 32 or more ounces a day, then he should probably start solids. Talk to your doctor about this to get the OK to begin feeding solid foods. The baby should be able to sit up on his own and will generally show an interest in trying the food. Some babies will reject the spoon at first. If this happens, you can try finger-feeding the baby—wash hands first! Most babies will take ½-1 tablespoon of food at their first feeding.
A growing number of parents are electing to not give their babies the traditional rice cereal as a first food. Many doctors are now saying that feeding the baby this rice cereal is like giving her a spoon full of sugar, because the body converts the cereal into triglycerides. Start your baby off well by not feeding him “white” foods, such as rice, white potatoes, white bread, pasta, etc.
If you would like to feed your baby some cereal, you can make your own brown rice, barley, or oatmeal cereals. For brown rice cereal, use ¼ cup brown rice powder (brown rice ground up in a food processor) and 1 cup of water. Bring the water to a boil and add the rice powder. Simmer for 10 minutes, whisking constantly. You can add in breast milk or fruit puree as desired. For oatmeal cereal, use ¼ cup ground oats (NOT instant or quick-cooking) and ¾ cup water, and for barley cereal use ¼ cup ground barley and 1 cup of water. Follow the same directions as for the rice.
Stage one baby foods are fairly thin and runny. Stage two are thicker, and stage 3 are thick and have some chunks. Start feeding vegetables before fruits so that baby doesn’t develop a preference for sweet foods. Butternut squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and carrots are all good first foods for baby. Cut these vegetables into pieces and cook in boiling water or steam them, then mash with a fork or put into a blender to puree. Add breast milk or water as needed to get the desired consistency.
For green beans or peas, cook until very tender, then puree on the blender setting that makes the finest purees because the skins of these vegetables are difficult to fully puree. You can also push the green beans or peas through a sieve or mesh strainer to fully get rid of the skins.
Cooking Not Required
Some fruits are OK to serve without cooking first: bananas, avocado, mango, and papaya are examples of those. Pears, plums, peaches, and nectarines may be mashed and given raw, but you should cook or steam these fruits first if your baby is under 6 months. Apples can be baked, steamed or cooked in water, then pureed or mashed with a potato masher. As the baby gets a bit older, 8 months or so, you can add in some cinnamon. Keep in mind, if your baby has constipation troubles, it is best to stay away from apples, bananas, and rice.
Meat & Protein
Eggs and meat, (cooked and pureed) are good sources of protein. Try mashed garbanzo or kidney beans as good sources of protein.
When baby has developed the pincer grasp (thumb and forefinger), he can progress to eating small pieces of soft food. With fruits and vegetables, you may find that it is easier for the baby to pick up the food if you have coated the pieces with some cheerio dust or wheat germ.
Try to use organic foods if you are able—little ones’ bodies are much more susceptible to damage from the toxins in pesticides and herbicides. But if you aren’t always able to buy organic, keep in mind that the following fruits and vegetables may contain more pesticides: strawberries, apples, nectarines, peaches, grapes, spinach, and tomatoes.
If you have a strong family history of food allergies, always consult your child’s doctor before introducing solid foods. When introducing a new food to your baby, give your baby the same new food for 4 days to test for allergy to that food. Never introduce more than one new food at a time when first beginning solids, and allow 4 days between each new food. Make sure that everything is clean—your hands, containers, and preparation surfaces.
All babies are different, and they will not all like the same foods or food textures. If the baby doesn’t seem to like a food the first time you offer it, keep trying. You will soon learn your baby’s preferences!
Blessings to you,