Making homemade baby food is easy and economical. Here’s what you need to know about choosing and safely storing foods.
Starting your baby on solid foods is an exciting milestone. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until baby is 4-to-6 months old before introducing solids. Talk to your baby’s doctor if you’re wondering whether he or she is ready.
Some pediatricians suggest starting with rice, oat, or barley cereals. These are mild and not likely to cause allergic reactions. Some parents start their babies on pureed fruits or vegetables. No matter what food you start with, give your baby only one new food at a time and wait a few days before starting another. If he or she develops signs of allergy, like diarrhea, rash, or vomiting, stop the new food and call your baby’s doctor.
Jarred or fresh?
Jarred foods are certainly convenient, especially for busy parents. But when you make baby food from scratch, you choose every ingredient. You can even mix and match all kinds of flavors to tempt your baby’s palate. Another perk? It’s often cheaper than buying the jars.
Many parents opt for organic fruits and veggies when making baby food, but this is not necessary. Fresh or frozen produce is fine.
Some good first solids for babies are pureed:
- Sweet potatoes
- Green beans
- Yellow squash
First, make sure your work area is clean. Wash your hands and equipment well, too.
Then wash, peel, core, or seed fruits and vegetables as needed. Cut into chunks and steam until tender. You can cook the food in a pan with a bit of simmering water or use a steamer insert over the water. Bananas can be mashed, thinned, and served with no cooking.
Next, transfer the food to a food mill, food processor, or blender to puree. You can also mash steamed foods with a fork or potato masher, or press them through a fine sieve. Once thoroughly mashed or pureed, add water, breast-milk, or formula to thin them to the right texture. No added salt or sugar is needed. When baby is ready for meats, these can be poached in water until cooked through, then pureed with some of the cooking liquid.
Although most foods are safe for babies, foods that are high in nitrates should not be prepared at home. These include beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, collard greens, lettuce, spinach, and turnips. During cooking, nitrates can turn to nitrites, which can cause dangerous breathing problems.
Storage and serving
If food is not to be served right away, refrigerate it in a sealed container. To freeze cooled purees for up to 3 months, pour it into the sections of a clean ice cube tray and cover the tray with foil. When frozen, transfer cubes to a zip-top freezer bag and label with the date and type of food.
To thaw frozen food, place it in the refrigerator overnight or put a cube in a saucepan over low heat, stirring often. If you use a microwave to defrost, use a low-power setting and stir halfway through to prevent hot spots. Also stir well before serving, and test the temperature before giving it to your baby. Throw out any uneaten thawed food.
Once your baby has tried many foods and tolerated them well, try combining them. Chicken and pears go well together, as do green beans, peas, and winter squash. As baby gets older, he or she will love to have a mashed or pureed portion of whatever the rest of the family is eating. Just reserve a small amount before you add seasonings to the rest of the dish.