Everything you need to know to make baby food at home
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If your baby is about to celebrate their half-birthday, it’s time to think about introducing solid foods.
While many continue to breastfeed or formula feed for the first year or two, when an infant has reached six months the iron stores they developed in the womb start to deplete. It's a perfect time to start supplementing with iron-rich foods.
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Six months is also a time when their GI system has matured, they are receptive to new tastes and textures, and they're probably eyeing the food you’re eating.
This week the FDA released a draft proposal that would reduce the legal limits of allowed lead in processed foods for babies and children under the age of 2. While these trace leads are likely nothing to worry about, if learning this has made you consider making your own homemade baby food, we want you to know that it's a lot easier to pull off than you think.
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Should I make my own homemade baby food?
I'm an atypical proselytizer of baby food making: I loved my epidural and Enfamil was my best friend during my son's first year. The truth is, I found making my own baby food to be a whole lot easier than figuring out the baby food aisle. Plus, it was a whole lot cheaper.
Homemade organic baby food is estimated to be 45% less expensive than store-bought. Non-organic homemade baby food will save you even more.
It really doesn’t take any special equipment, know-how, or skills and it takes less culinary prowess than cooking for the adults in your life. Before you embark, here are a few things that are helpful to know.
How can I make homemade baby food?
You can more or less turn anything into a baby food purée for stage 1 eaters, and once they are nibbling at small bites it gets even easier. There are some rules to follow, however.
Keep things super clean
Babies have a weaker immune system than older children and adults. Be sure to up your cleaning game before prepping baby food. Only prepare foods on a very clean surface and with freshly cleaned equipment. Now is the time to sing the Happy Birthday song two full times when you wash your hands.
Be wise about diluting
Since babies can’t drink cow’s milk until they are 1 year old, don’t use it in your homemade baby food. Breast milk, formula, or plain filtered water are better choices to thin out purées. Keep in mind that too much liquid makes for runny food, so add a little bit at a time.
You can also add a few teaspoons of olive oil for a little bit of flavor and to help with constipation. If you’re tempted to use coconut oil it’s important to know that it should be added with caution as it could potentially reveal a sulfate allergy.
Keep allergies in mind
Before introducing your child to any foods with typical allergens, including dairy products, eggs, and nuts, consult with your child’s pediatrician.
Hold the honey
Honey and maple syrup are off-limits for babies under 12 months of age. Not only can these ingredients cause issues with glucose levels, but there can also be small traces of botulism in each of these ingredients. Don’t give them to your baby until they are 1 year old, but it's recommended you wait until age 2 before giving sweeteners of any kind.
While you’re at it, also hold the salt and be sure to only use mild spices, like basil, oregano, thyme, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, cumin, fennel, and dill in your baby’s food.
When can I give my baby solids?
The Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics say that when children are 6 months of age they can be introduced to foods other than breast milk or infant formula. “Solids” refers to any food that isn’t breast milk or baby formula. The purées you buy or will make at home are considered first solids for babies.
Is my baby ready for solids?
If your baby has good head and neck control, is able to sit up, and is showing an interest in food by leaning forward and/or opening their mouth when food is near, they are likely ready to start eating solids. If you're not sure if they are truly ready, you should double-check with your pediatrician.
What foods should I Introduce first?
While mashed bananas and avocados are typical first foods, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that most children do not need to be introduced to foods in a certain order, though there are some foods that are easier for little bellies to manage than others.
We highly recommend the first foods database by Solid Starts. It breaks down every food, the earliest age you can introduce it to babies, common allergens, and methods for safe preparation.
Visit the Solid Starts database
What do I need to make homemade baby food?
You really don’t need a lot and you probably already have what you need in your kitchen.
If you’d like to investigate a baby food maker, my family felt like they made things more manageable, they made cleanup easier, and they made baby food-making a bit more fun.
We had the baby Nutribullet Baby and loved it. It was easy to use, easy to clean, and it allowed me to quickly blend up small, unseasoned parts of meals I was making for myself. I never had to worry about storage or spoilage and it took up very little space on my counter.
Parenting editor, Anna Lane, had the Beaba Babycook and says she loved how it steamed and puréed all in one.
If you don’t want to go the baby food maker route, you can definitely use household items you probably already have, including a blender that can blend through tough, fibrous foods, like broccoli, carrots, or beets.
Here is a list of what you’ll need:
A hand-held immersion blender
A Vitamix (These are best if you want to also make your own rice cereals)
A sieve or strainer (to remove seeds and larger bits of food)
A pot and steamer basket to steam vegetables, fruits, and meats.
How to store homemade baby food
First, be sure to only serve your baby a couple of tablespoons of purées at a time. Once a spoon has gone into the food, it essentially has contaminated it, making it unsuitable to be saved for later (this goes for store-bought baby food, too).
Once prepared, homemade purées can be kept in the refrigerator for one to two days or in the freezer for up to two months. Try spooning them into single-serving containers or freezing them in ice cube trays for small, easy-to-serve portions. We recommend covered ice cube trays (to keep it sanitary) that are made from silicon, so it's easier to pop portions out one by one.
Heat up leftovers by warming them on the stove or in the microwave and then let them cool until room temperature. Never serve a baby hot food.
For microwaved foods, make sure to thoroughly stir and check that there aren’t any hot spots.
There you go! Easier than getting dressed and making a trip to the grocery store. And if all of this is too much, there is always baby-led weaning!
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This article originally appeared on Reviewed: Here's how to make homemade baby food for your bundle of joy