Looking for information on making food for your baby?
You're in the right place! 🙂
In this edition of Baby Schooling you can expect to learn:
- The benefits of cooking your own baby food
- Tools needed and the food you should make vs the food you should avoid
- Food combinations and ideas for each stage of your baby's life
- And much much more!
Introducing your baby to solids for the first time can be an exciting and rewarding experience and even more so when you make your own baby food.
Cooking for your baby may seem intimidating at first, but once you know the basics, it's not nearly as difficult as you might have thought. In fact, we’d venture so far as to say it's as easy pie!
In this article we cover everything you need to know about cooking for your baby, making mealtimes a piece of cake.
Ok, enough with the cheesy (oops!) food metaphors. Let's get started.
Should You Make Your Own Baby Food?
Thinking of making your own baby food, but need a little extra motivation?
Cooking your own baby food has many benefits. Here's why more and more moms are choosing to give up the convenience of store bought baby foods:
Benefits of cooking your own baby food
- You know exactly what goes into your baby food: Many non-organic baby foods have added flavorings and preservatives
- It's cost effective: Ready-to-eat baby food can be expensive!
- Variety: You get to play around with delicious combinations you won't readily find on your supermarket’s shelves
- Home cooked baby foods retain more nutrients: Many store bought brands incorporate high temperatures with long cooking times to extend shelf life, losing many nutrients and vitamins in the process
Great! Let's take a look at what tools you’ll need to get started.
Essential Tools To Make Your Own Baby Food
While you probably can get away with using just a fork and a little elbow grease (for some baby foods) when you're in a pinch, having the right tools will make things a whole lot easier - and open up a world of baby food options! The best part? You probably have most of these in your kitchen already (if you don't, here’s your opportunity to finally get them!) These are the basics for making and storing baby food:
Steaming is a great way to preserve nutrients, ensuring your baby gets the very best out of every meal.
You'll need these to drain any excess water before blending or mashing.
Blenders and food processors allow you to get just the right consistency with ease.
Hand-held blender/stick blender
These are super handy for smaller quantities (trying a new food/on the go).
Fine mesh strainer
Help achieve a smoother, finer consistency - foods like peas and green beans have skins and will need to be pushed through a fine meshed strainer.
As your baby grows, you’ll need to start introducing more textured foods.
Ice cube trays
Making baby food ahead of time and freezing is easy and convenient. Ice cube trays take the guesswork out of portioning.
To separate and store cubed portions of baby food.
Use a permanent marker to keep track of the types of foods and the dates they were cooked.
Freezing storage times:
- Vegetable and fruit purees - up to 6 months
- Purees with milk - up to 2 months
- Cooked fish and meat dishes - up to 3 months
When To Start Feeding Your Baby Solids?
This is a common question that perplexes many parents. The AAP recommends starting solids at around 6 months.
If your baby has reached certain developmental milestones (able to hold their head up, sit up without help and actively shows an interest in food), the general consensus is that it's ok to start solids as early as 4 months. It's always a good idea to consult your pediatrician if you're not quite sure.
How To Make Baby Food: 4 - 8 months
The very first foods you give your baby should be easy to digest, free from common allergens and have a mild flavor. Many moms choose to start their babies off with rice cereal and while this is a great first food for tiny tummies, there are lots of other tasty options you can try. Apart from rice cereal, your baby's first meals will generally consist of a single, pureed fruit or vegetable.
Remember to wait at least 4 days before trying a new food. This way, your baby has time to adjust to one new food at a time and should a certain food not agree with their tummy, you’ll have no trouble figuring out exactly which one it was.
In the very beginning your baby will most likely eat no more than 1-2 teaspoons at a time.
Here are some of the best stage 1 baby foods and how to prepare them
Cereals should be finely ground in a food processor and mixed to a thin consistency with baby's milk. Good cereals to start with are:
- Brown rice cereal
- Old fashioned oatmeal - do not use the instant or quick cook varieties as these often contain added sugar and flavorings
- Bring 1 cup water to a boil
- Add a quarter cup of ground cereal to boiling water and simmer for approximately 10 minutes. To serve, add baby's milk a little at a time to reach desired, easy to swallow consistency.
Good vegetable choices for stage 1 baby food are:
- Butternut squash
- Sweet potato
- Green beans - strain after blending
- Peas - strain after blending
- Wash, chop and peel your chosen vegetable.
- Steam until tender, strain and blend until smooth.
- If your puree is too thick, add cooking water a little at a time until desired consistency is reached.
- Stage 1 baby foods should be smooth and just slightly runny enough for baby to swallow.
Hard fruit will need to be stewed before blending and feeding to your baby. Apples and pears have mild flavors and are great to start with.
- Wash, peel, remove pips/pits and chop your chosen fruit.
- Steam for a few minutes until tender and blend until smooth.
- Fruits usually have a runner consistency than vegetables and seldom require extra water.
- Add cooking water a little at time if puree is too thick.
Raw fruit first foods
Some fruits are soft and have a mild enough flavor to simply be pureed, or even mashed until smooth and served. Suitable raw fruit first foods are
- Peel accordingly
- Remove pit (if any)
- Blend or mash until smooth
Tip: A little bit of baby's milk may be added if a runner consistency is desired.
Once your baby has become accustomed to single flavors and has mastered their swallowing technique, you can try mixing things up for a bit of excitement.
Some good combinations to begin with are:
- Carrots + potatoes
- Peas + potatoes
- Peas + carrots
- Apple + pear
- Avocado + banana
The combinations are only limited to your imagination - if it sound good, it's worth a try.
What about allergens and high risk foods?
Some foods contain known allergens or pose other health risks and should be avoided during the first months of starting solids. Bearing in mind that information regarding these foods are changing (some healthcare providers now think that an early introduction to certain high-allergy-risk foods may actually prevent these allergies later in life), some of the most common “high risk” foods are:
- Peanut butter/peanuts/tree nuts
- Cow’s milk
- Egg whites
Read more about the concerns of giving your baby these “high risk” foods here.
Keep in mind that if you suffer from food allergies, your child has an increased risk.
How To Make Baby Food: 8-10 Months
As your baby gets more teeth, they’ll be ready to try more textured foods. This is also a great time to introduce new flavors and combinations. Exposing your baby's palate to a wide variety of tastes may lead to better eating habits later in life. Added texture is also plays an important role in jaw, tooth and speech development.
In addition to all the above mentioned foods (prepared with chunkier textures) you can now start introducing your foods like:
- Unsweetened cottage cheese,yogurt and cream cheese
- Broccoli & cauliflower (baby's tummy is more able to handle vegetables that may cause gas at this age)
- Melon, papaya, figs, kiwi - at this age, fruit may be finely chopped or mashed and served raw or cooked.
- A variety of meats - chicken, beef, lamb, fish and pork may all be added to your baby's diet. Cooked meat can be ground or pulsed in a blender until a manageable consistency is reached. Your baby's rapidly growing body will need extra iron to help prevent baby anemia by this stage and adding a variety of meats will help meet these needs. Combining foods rich in vitamin C will help your baby absorb iron.
- Soft cooked pasta - babies are less likely to experience allergic reactions to grains at this age. Some pastas are specifically made for babies.
- Egg yolks - egg yolks may be mashed and added to various dishes or mixed to a creamy, more palatable consistency with baby's milk. Egg whites should be avoided until the age of 1, due to allergy associated risks (see above).
Delicious and easy (for you and baby) combinations to start with:
- Chicken + carrots + apple
- Potato + leak + peas
- Sweet potato + carrots + broccoli
- Broccoli + cottage cheese
- Beef + tomato + sweet potato
- Fish + carrots + potato
- Papaya + cottage cheese
- Apple + kiwi + pear
- Baby rice + peach + yogurt
Stage 3 baby foods: 10-12 months and beyond
Finally your baby is ready for finger foods! This is a fun stage for you and your baby and tiny tots will revel in their newfound independence.
Healthy finger foods to try:
- Strips of toast + butter
- Soft, washed, peeled and sliced fruit
- Sliced cheese
- Veggie sticks (we love cucumber) + yogurt for dipping
- Watermelon strips - seeds removed
Serving your baby delicious, healthy, homemade food is an incredibly empowering and satisfying experience. If the thought of it still seems a little overwhelming, why not start by alternating between store bought and homemade or keeping a few jars on hand for those “just-in-case” days? (We’re all-too familiar with those - no judging, we promise!)
Cooking your own baby food is worth a try, at least, and one thing’s for sure: your baby and your pocket will love you for it!