A Guide To Homemade Baby Food

The foods we give our babies are so important in their development and immune system, and it's a reminder to feed yourself and the rest of the family healthy too! Don't be intimidated by making your own baby food. You don't have to be an exceptional cook or even spend much time in the kitchen. Here is a rundown of what you need and how to make and serve healthy homemade baby food.  (Pictured: homemade rice cereal with apple cinnamon raisin puree)

When To Begin

Around 4-6 months you can introduce solids (purees). It takes some practice for them to learn to swallow so be patient! My son was very interested in what WE were eating early on but he didn't "get it" until 6-7 months. Until recently it has been customary to start with rice cereal, but many people are challenging that now. We started with fruits and vegetables, which brings up another myth -- that fruits will spoil their tastebuds. I didn't find that to be true, actually he prefers savory. But all babies are different, and we all have different tastes. I think easily digested foods like carrots, apples, zucchini, avocado and coconut are great first foods. Then move onto starchier choices like sweet potato, banana and peas. At some point you will add grains, dairy (yogurt and cottage cheese) and proteins (chicken, turkey, fish).

Choose from foods that are in season. If you can buy organic, great -- especially meat and dairy. I love that Costco has lots of organic choices these days.  Fresh produce is great but frozen is good (and convenient) too. Organic frozen foods are pretty affordable at Trader Joes. It's wise to try one new food for a few days before introducing another to watch for allergic reactions. Combining foods is pretty simple, just think of foods you would put on your plate. But we all run out of creativity sometimes, so I will be posting some of the more interesting purees that I come up with -- you can subscribe to my {BabyFoodie} feed. It's really handy when baby can eat what the rest of the family is eating -- like roasted chicken and steamed broccoli zipped up in the blender (I'll have more ideas like this in an upcoming blog post).

What You Need

All you need to make baby food from scratch is a decent blender. If you're lucky enough to have a Vitamix or Blend Tec, fantastic! Personally, I use a Magic Bullet which blends right in the cup. Its small enough that I just leave it out on the counter at all times since I use it daily.

In addition to spoons and bibs, you'll also want to have some small containers for storing, serving and traveling purposes. Even if you freeze the food in an ice cube tray, you need to put it in a bowl or take it with you at some point. I absolutely love these heavy duty glass jars from Wean Cubes (tinytots.com) -- the lid clamps tight and they're generously sized (I could go on but I'll save it for another post).

Check out this cute bag I made to carry baby food necessities.

Making Mush

Take note of these foods that aren't recommended in the first year:

  • Berries (except blueberries)
  • Citrus (orange, lemon, pineapple...)
  • Tomatoes
  • Egg whites
  • Nuts (includes nut butter and nut milk)
  • Honey

It's pretty straightforward, really, just cook & blend. Actually, let's back it up. Some foods don't need to be cooked, like ripe fruits (banana, peaches, melon, avocado etc). For foods that need softening, you can steam, boil, roast, poach, bake, braise, simmer (get the idea?).

You may need to add liquid when blending to achieve the right consistency (which will depend on the baby's development). Breastmilk and formula are recommended, but you can also use the water that the veggies were cooked in, and I also use coconut milk and homemade chicken stock.

Regarding using seasoning, I have read opposing opinions. Personally, I think a touch of sea salt, some cinnamon or curry, is fine (and will help your little eater develop a wide range of tastes). I would wait until they get the hang of mealtime before you get too exotic though!

Be sure to cool the purée before freezing. I usually leave enough in the fridge for a day or two. Also don't forget to transfer food from the freezer to the fridge each night so you don't get caught unprepared!

Speaking of unprepared... There are some purchased baby foods that I like to keep around. Trader Joes makes unsweetened fruit sauce in squeeze packs (applesauce, apple/carrot and apple/banana) that are very handy. Just don't let bambino get ahold of the cap -- major choking hazard!

I have also purchased jars of baby food while traveling, and save the jars for reuse. I'm not a fan of the prepared meat purees, though -- I don't eat spam so why would I feed a baby (essentially) canned meat?  Not judging, just sayin'.  Another prepared food that interests me, although we haven't tried it, are the freeze dried just-add-water packets. Freeze-drying preserves more nutrients than cooking to death (canning), and they seem very convenient to carry.

How to reheat

So you've got your homemade food, it's thawed in the fridge, how do you heat it up? I prefer not to use the microwave, but I will if I'm in a pinch. You can empty the food into a small pan and warm on the stovetop. You could also put the container into a small pot of simmering water (assuming its heat safe). You'd be surprised at how many things are still tasty cold or room temp -- carrots, cereal... give it a try.

Check out this website for lots of great information on making your baby's food!

When you're stuck at peas & carrots and mixing everything with sweet potato, follow my {BabyFoodie} posts for some new ideas!

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