Making Homemade Baby Food:
It's Healthy, Tasty, and Easier Than You Think
One of babyhood's most exciting, important milestones is weaning, which most babies begin at around six months. And when it comes to introducing baby to her first solids, what could be healthier or tastier than homemade baby food?
After all, when you make it yourself, you control exactly what's in it. No thickeners, additives, or preservatives—just fresh, whole, unprocessed foods.
There are other benefits, too. You have more flexibility, so you can introduce more variety into baby's diet. It's more economical, and definitely yummier. Let's face it: no food manufacturer, no matter how conscientious, can pour the same painstaking love and care into your baby's food than you can.
Making homemade baby food is a labor of love, but it doesn't have to be labor intensive—not when you have the right tools, some time-saving tricks, and a can-do attitude.
- To save time, make fresh baby food in bulk and then freeze it in individual portions, using single-serve, freezer-safe containers. Only use containers made for this purpose (for example, freezing glass can be dangerous unless it's freezer safe). Label and date your homemade baby food.
- Another time-saver: when making family meals, make larger servings of baby-friendly foods like veggies that you can puree later. Tip: every time you use your oven, there's an opportunity to bake some, say, extra potatoes or squash for future meals, without creating extra work.
- You'll find lots of advice on what specific foods to feed baby and when. Ultimately, you'll want to form a game plan with your pediatrician. And regardless of what baby food chart you follow, it makes sense to keep a food journal, so you can track baby's experiences with specific foods.
- Baby's first meals will be thin, single-ingredient purees. Eventually, she'll work up to thicker, lumpier blends—then more coarsely chopped foods—and eventually finger foods. A good baby food processor or grinder< can eliminate the guesswork that comes with pureeing.
- Plan to be a total clean freak when it comes to baby food prep. Scrub everything: countertops, utensils, containers, appliances to avoid cross-contamination. Keep separate cutting boards for meats and fruits/veggies. Wash your hands obsessively. Tip: reserve fresh dish towels for drying baby's kitchenware.
- Don't leave freshly made baby food at room temperature any longer than needed (two hours max), although you should allow food to cool before refrigerating or freezing. Tip: you can accelerate the cooling process by placing the baby food container in cold or icy water, or by spreading it thinly in a shallow container.
- When freezing homemade baby food, place it in the coldest part of the freezer, and make sure you use the oldest food first. How long does baby food stay fresh in the freezer? Experts often say three months, but for many parents, one month is the rule of thumb.
- Introducing a variety of foods now can help prevent a picky eater later. Invest in one or two good baby food cookbooks, and you'll have a go-to source of inspiration. Tip: see sample baby food recipes below from one of our favorite cookbooks.
- You'll find that some cooking methods are preferable to others. Steaming, for example, preserves both nutrients and taste, while boiling food can rob it of some nutrients.
- When warming frozen or refrigerated food, always heat it thoroughly, then cool to room temperature before serving. This destroys any lurking bacteria, so avoid the temptation to only warm foods partially to feed your hungry baby faster. Learn to anticipate baby's hunger so you're not rushing.
- Weaning is a gradual process. Some days will be more successful than others. It helps to have good equipment, like a comfortable, functional highchair, a shallow, soft-tipped spoon, and a suction-on serving bowl.
Finally, don't sweat the mess. If you want your baby to embrace solid foods, make the dining experience fun. If you're anxious about spills and crumbs, baby will equate meals with stress. So get a good spill mat and some comfortable bibs —hey, wear your slicker if that's what it takes!—and let baby explore and enjoy.
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