It has been shown that children tend to form long-term likings for certain foods and flavors based on their earliest years of eating, and infants tend to be more amenable to trying new foods than their scarcely senior toddler and preschool siblings. These are all good reasons we should feed our babies fresh, delicious, real food from the moment they first seize a spoon.
Homemade baby food is generally more nutritious and tastier than commercially processed food if it is fresh and made from whole foods and nothing else. When cooked in bulk, it is cheaper than commercial options. And you can control the quality of ingredients when you make your own. Seems like homemade baby food is a no-brainer.
Oh, wait, it takes time! This is true, but just like any meal, some homemade baby food is better than none. So try making a little bit and see how it goes. In fact, mashed fresh avocado or banana would make a perfect first food, with no cooking required.
How will you know whether your baby is ready for solid foods? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, she may be ready if she shows interest in the solid food around her, can sit up with support, is able to turn her head to refuse food and has doubled her birth weight (usually at about four to six months). Always consult your pediatrician, as babies grow at different rates.
How to Make Your Own…
Vegetables and Fruits
- Steam vegetables or fruits. (Chop larger foods into one-inch pieces.)
- Purée in a food processor or blender. A fancy baby food maker is not necessary; any variety of food processor or blender will do the job.
- Add water to achieve desired consistency for baby’s age and stage.
- If making in bulk, freeze individual servings in ice cube trays, covered with wax paper and then aluminum foil, or freezer wrap (up to three months).
- Grind 1/4 cup brown rice, millet or oatmeal in a blender for 1 minute.
- Boil 1 cup of water.
- Reduce heat to low and add grain.
- Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Serve, refrigerate (two to three days), or freeze (up to one month) in ice cube trays.
- Homemade stock is full of vitamins and minerals. It aids digestion and builds bones.
- Mix homemade chicken or vegetable stock into baby’s cereal or vegetables to liquefy and add nutrition.
- Babies can drink homemade vegetable stock from a bottle after the age of nine months.
Worried about allergies? Introduce one food at a time, and wait at least four days before introducing another. Common problem foods: cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, soy, nuts and artificial additives. Honey should be avoided until at least a year.
- Grind cooked chicken, fish or meat in a food processor or blender and refrigerate (one to two days). Babies should be seven to eight months old before eating most poultry, meat and fish.
- Serve alone or mix with puréed vegetables or cooked grains.
Seidenberg is co-founder of Nourish Schools, a Washington-based nutrition education company, and author.