For weeks, you’ve been waiting to snap that first photo of your mini smearing mushed-up peas all over her face. Giving your baby her first taste of solids is an exciting—and adorable—milestone. To get there, she needs to sit up well, coordinate all the muscles involved in swallowing (i.e., move food from a spoon into her throat) and be interested in what you’re eating, per the American Academy of Pediatrics. (FYI, this usually happens around the six-month mark, but you can always check with your pediatrician if you think your baby might be ready sooner or later than that.)
Once she’s ready for solids, the fun (and mess) can really begin. Curious about making your own purees and mixes? It can be a great way to get your munchkin interested in new healthy flavors and can even save you money in the long run. And mastering how to make baby food is actually easier than you’d think. Here’s your complete guide to preparing, making and serving homemade baby food.
What You’ll Need
The truth is that you don’t really need any special equipment to make your own baby food beyond what you probably already have at home. Here are some items that will come in handy:
- A blender, food processor or immersion blender to grind or puree baby’s food. You can also use gadgets that are specifically designed for making your own baby food like a baby food grinder or an all-in-one baby food maker that will steam as well as puree food.
- A steamer
- Ice cube trays
Ready, Set, Cook
How to Prep Ingredients for Homemade Baby Food
Fruits and vegetables: Wash and peel fresh produce before mashing or pureeing. Vegetables and harder fruits (like apples and pears) should be cooked first, while softer ones (like avocados and berries) can be pureed without cooking. To make a puree, add liquid (water, breast milk or formula) until you reach the desired consistency. The older your baby gets, the thicker the consistency can be.
Grains: Cook rice, quinoa, oatmeal, buckwheat and barley per instructions and then puree or grind the grains, using liquid to reach the desired consistency. For baby’s first taste of grains, you can grind the grains and add boiling water until thick and creamy. Allow the mixture to cool before serving (you want it warm, not hot).
Meat, poultry and fish: Trim and remove skin, if necessary, before cooking thoroughly. Puree using liquid to thin the mixture as needed.
When prepping baby food, it’s important to keep work surfaces, utensils and hands clean and to use a separate cutting board for meat, poultry and fish.
How to Store Homemade Baby Food
Store homemade purees in the fridge for up to three days and in the freezer for up to three months.
For ready-to-eat portions, freeze homemade baby food in ice cube trays, then thaw individual cubes overnight in the fridge or using the defrost setting on the microwave. Clearly label and date the food before placing it in the freezer. Once defrosted, do not refreeze.
Are Any Foods Off-Limits?
For the most part, babies can eat pretty much anything as long as it’s prepared properly. That said, some foods should be kept off the menu until your mini is a little older. Chief among them is honey, which poses the risk of botulism so experts say to avoid the sweetener until your kid is 1 year old. Pediatricians also advise skipping processed sugar and overly salted foods.
But what about that jar of food you saw at the grocery store that was labeled for babies 8 months and older? Does that mean you can’t serve the same flavors to your 6-month-old? Fun fact: The designations on store-bought baby food don’t have anything to do with the ingredients, but rather the texture, so don’t read too much into those labels (although they do provide some great inspiration for flavor combos).
The Best Foods to Give Baby
At 6 months: Remember what we said about not many foods being off-limits? Well, that’s true. But for the best chance of success, start your baby off with some pediatrician- and parent-approved picks. “Sweet potatoes, carrots, peas and parsnips are good foods to start with,” says Laura Lacey, a certified nutritional consultant who teaches classes on how to make baby food. “Avocados and bananas are baby ‘fast food’ that you don’t need to cook—simply mash and serve.” (Don’t worry about which order to serve foods in; just make sure that everything you’re offering has a soft texture.)
At 9 months: As your baby gets older and becomes more comfortable eating solids, feel free to dish up whatever is on the menu for the rest of the family. Yep, even that tilapia with steamed broccoli. Simply mash up the food or puree it to the right consistency (your baby should be able to handle small pieces of soft foods around now). Prepare meals without spices to start, but after a few weeks, feel free to add flavorings like cinnamon, garlic and pepper.
At 12 months: At this point, your toddler should have graduated from purees to small pieces of fruit, cooked vegetables, soft shredded meat, poultry, fish and more. You can also give her more of what you’re eating, like some of your bread roll or a portion of your (cooled) veggie stew.
One More Thing…
Don’t get discouraged if your baby rejects your homemade puree after the first bite. It can take up to 15 tries before kids start to enjoy a new flavor. So if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.