I want to apologize to my readers who do not have babies or have no interest in making your own baby food. However, I’ve gotten several requests to do a post on baby food, so here goes nothing! This will just be a brief introduction. I hope to do more posts in the future related to cooking and preparing the baby food. There is so, so much that could be written on this topic. Please ask if you have anything specific you would like to hear about, or any questions. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find it for you.
Let me begin by saying that I by no means consider myself an expert in this area. I do happen to be a medical professional, but I am not a pediatrician or a dietician. Physical therapists are not typically considered specialists in the area of feeding babies. My number one go-to resource has been WholesomeBabyFood.com. The website is extremely comprehensive and informative. There are a lot of books available on this topic as well. I got Top 100 Baby Purees by Annabel Karmel. Other websites that I have found helpful are:
- Smitten Kitchen: Deb has a branch off of her main website for baby food and baby food preperation. Her site is worth checking out for the recipes, but the gorgeous photographs are what will keep you coming back.
- Weelicious: Catherine has great recipes for kids (and adults!) of all ages. I’ve emailed her with questions and she always sends a prompt and knowledgable reply.
- AAP Guidelines: Not a ton of information here, but when I was starting solids I made sure to refer to the American Association of Pediatrics. If anyone should know something, it is them, right?
However, when I introduced solids to my baby at six months, I felt so lost! There was guidance for nearly everything: how long to breastfeed, how long to swaddle, when to start solids, how to do tummy time, and so on and so forth. But starting solids? I could find very little information in this area, and unfortunately got hardly any contribution from my doctor. So I read up and did my best. Making your own baby food has several benefits, but it isn’t required, and it isn’t for everyone. Some of the benefits include:
- It saves money.
- You control what goes into the food.
- The possibilities are endless, not limited by what is sold in a jar.
- You control the quality of the ingredients.
- You can add in some texture so your baby becomes accustomed to the feel of different things.
The only drawback that I can think of to making your own baby food is the time commitment. Honestly though, if my hubby is at home and I can get two uninterrupted hours in the kitchen, I could probably accomplish 5 to 6 foods. And once you have foods introduced (more on that in a minute), you can just quickly puree whatever you are having for dinner. That will add less than five minutes to your dinner prep time. But if you work full time outside of the home, knock yourself out and buy jarred baby food. I don’t even know how you people have the time or energy to go to the grocery store.
- I waited until our baby was six months old to start solids. Many people start at four months. That’s a decision that I’ll leave up to you and your doctor. Our kiddo was getting more than enough nutrition from my breastmilk and was 95th percentile for height and weight so I wasn’t in a hurry.
- Breastmilk and/or formula should still be the #1 means of nutrition for your baby. Feed solids after nursing or giving your baby a bottle, so they don’t fill up on the solids.
- Introduce new foods one at a time with four days in between each introduction. To help me stay organized (and because I’m completely type-A), I printed off a blank calendar. On each day I write what I fed my daughter and if she had any adverse reactions. I used the same calendar to keep track of bowel movements. Sorry, I know that’s gross, but without this calendar I would be lost. It helps me remember when it is time to introduce a new food. It helps me to know if she is constipated and if I should lay off on the rice and give her some prunes.
- First foods: You have a number of different options. I started with rice cereal. You can make your own cereals and grains, but I got the store bought kind. Other first food suggestions I have seen include banana, avocado, sweet potato, apple, pear, papaya, and parsnips.
- The first one or two times I give my baby a new food, I like to give it alone (not mixed with anything) so she gets used to the flavor. After that, I start with combinations. Combinations can be 2 vegetables, a meat and vegetable, a veggie with a grain, a fruit and a grain, or even a fruit with a vegetable (sweet potato goes great with apples!). If you’re stuck in this department, you can look at some of the baby food jars for inspiration, or just think of what you would want to eat together. For example, broccoli might not pair well with prunes. But that’s just me. Maybe your baby will love it.
Signs of a Food Allergy: The reason you want to wait four days between the introduction of each new food is to determine if your baby has a food allergy or intolerance. If you suspect an allergy, contact your doctor. Here are some signs of a food allergy, taken from the AAP:
- Itchy skin rashes
- Swelling of skin
- Tightness of the throat
- Pale skin
- Loss of consciousness (yikes!)
If you see several of these happening at the same time, call 911.
Crying is not a food allergy.
Baby Food Cooking Techniques
- Steaming: Steaming is my preferred method of cooking baby food. It is quick, easy, and it preserves most of the nutrients in the food. Works for almost any food.
- Baking: Works great for foods such as squash and potatoes.
- Microwaving: Similar to steaming. You’ll want to throw a little water in with your food and cook until tender. I’ve never done this by imagine it would be helpful for small batches.
- Stewing: Good for fruits such as apples and pears.
- Boiling: I haven’t boiled anything, because like I said, I usually opt for steaming. Typically, if you can boil it, you can steam it. I can’t think of an exception.
Tools Required for Baby Food Preperation:
- Pots and pans: Whichever of the above methods you choose, you’ll need some sort of vessel. If you choose microwaving, you’ll want a glass bow with a cover that you can vent.
- Steamer basket: Get one. Vegetables are better steamed, for little people and for big people. This was a new revelation for me.
- Food processor, handheld blender, food mill: You really only need one of these. Choose your own adventure. I prefer my food processor for most things. A food mill is nice in the beginning to get things like sweet potatoes really smooth. Now I just use a potato masher, but in the beginning they should have a smoother texture. I have read that potatoes/sweet potatoes can get cakey in a food processor.
- Ice cube trays, foil, and zip-top bags: For freezing.
Okay, I think I’m going to stop there for this introduction. I’d love some feedback: What more do you want to hear about? Are you even interested in this series? Did you make your own baby food? Why or why not?