When you begin feeding your baby solid foods, it’s time to think about what foods you’re going to be feeding them. There are many healthy premade options, including organic baby food. But homemade baby food is a popular option for parents who want to know exactly what goes into their baby’s mouth -- and making it may be easier than you think.
Homemade Baby Food: Advantages of Making It Yourself
Parents who prefer homemade baby food have many reasons for their choice.
- They know exactly what they’re feeding their baby.
- It’s more economical than buying pre-packaged foods (although some parents note that this is not always the case).
- They can choose their own fruits, vegetables, and other foods for purees, instead of relying on the flavors chosen by manufacturers. You’re not going to find melons or avocados in the baby food section of the supermarket.
- It gets the baby used to eating the same food as the rest of the family -- just in puree form.
Myra Bartalos, the mother of a 20-month-old daughter in Brooklyn, N.Y, found that making her own baby food was easy and appealed to her concern for her daughter’s nutrition.
“What sealed the deal for me was finding out that jarred food is cooked at extremely high temperatures to kill bacteria for longer storage, at the same time taking out many of the food's vitamins and nutrients and taste,” says Bartalos. “I would roast, steam, or boil veggies or fruit on the weekends and puree in a mini food processor. I'd make three or four different fruits and veggies at a time, so I had a month's worth of food with each cooking weekend.”
“Making your own baby food does help you think more about what you're feeding your child,” says Erika Radtke, the mother of a 4-year-old boy and newborn daughter in Carlsbad, Calif. “And it seems to pave the way for making healthier meals, even as he or she gets older.”
Making Baby Food: Disadvantages of the Homemade Approach
Some parents who’ve tried and given up on homemade baby food point out these disadvantages to making it:
- Time. It takes time to make and prepare lots of little servings of homemade baby food. It’s much faster to pick up prepackaged servings.
- Convenience. Prepackaged baby foods come in measured amounts and ready to serve.
- Storage. Homemade baby foods may spoil more quickly and require refrigeration, which may take up room in your fridge or freezer if you make a lot of servings ahead of time. Prepackaged baby foods don’t need refrigerator storage until they’re opened.
Although Radtke made some of her son’s baby food, she admits, “It was a pain. I used to take a whole weekend to cook the foods, portion it out into ice cube trays, freeze them and store them. I didn't have a problem using Gerber's or Earth's Best when I ran out, though.”
If you’re daunted by the idea of making your own baby food, don’t feel that you’re neglecting your baby. “Foods intended for babies are so pure to begin with,” says Jennifer Shu, MD, a pediatrician in Atlanta and co-author of Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality and Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor, and a Bottle of Ketchup.
“If you’re really concerned about what your baby’s eating and don’t have the time to make your own baby food, focus your attention on what they’re eating once they begin table foods,” Shu tells WebMD. “It’s really a very short window of time when they are eating purees.”
Making Baby Food: What You’ll Need
If you decide to make your own baby food, says Shu, it’s not that difficult: “All you need is a food grinder and a way to steam the food.” (If you’re taking the time to make your own baby food, steaming is the best way to cook ingredients because it preserves the most nutrients.)
There are plenty of baby food makers on the market, from a French product that combines steaming, blending, warming, and defrosting, to simple baby food processors, mills, and grinders. But you don’t need to buy any of these products; your own food processor will work just as well for making baby food. And if you don’t have one, just use a potato masher or blender, to make sure the food is soft and does not have chunks.
Many popular books offer hundreds of recipes for baby food purees, including Blender Baby Food, Top 100 Baby Purees, and the Petit Appetit Cookbook. These books can help you come up with new ideas to try with your baby and remind you of important nutrients to include, but as with baby food makers, they’re not a requirement for making your own baby food.
Healthy Homemade: How to Make Baby Food in 6 Easy Steps
- Wash and rinse your hands and equipment.
- Scrub and peel fruits and vegetables.
- Bake, steam, roast, or microwave until tender (steaming and microwaving preserve the most nutrients).
- Puree in a food processor with a little liquid (water, breast milk, or formula), or mash if your baby can handle more texture.
- Store in the refrigerator or freezer, in airtight containers. (Packaged baby foods can be stored in the cupboard until they’re opened; because they’re fresh, homemade baby foods can’t.)
- Rewarm when it’s time to eat and allow to cool.
There are a number of storage containers sold specifically for refrigerating and freezing small serving-sized amounts of baby food; you can also just use an ice cube tray.
In addition to fruits and vegetables, you can puree foods such as cooked meats (fully cooked, with no pink, and remove fat, skin, and connective tissue), beans, and cooked eggs.
Homemade Made Easy: 1-Step Baby Food
When you’re preparing some foods, you can actually cut the steps down to one. “Cutting up a very ripe pear, mashing a banana, mashing an avocado -- that’s making your own baby food,” Shu tells WebMD. “Or, for example, when you make mashed potatoes for the family, set aside some that don’t have whole milk added. You can add a little butter or mild spices. As long as you’re eating healthy, you can give your baby a modified version of what you’re eating.”