Text and photography by Brianna Marino
The choices for baby food are downright overwhelming. A glance down the baby goods aisle at any grocery store is enough to leave your head spinning from option overload. Despite the selection, many families are opting to go the way of yesteryear and make their own baby food. But, why? With so many varieties, packaging styles and flavors of baby food, is there any reason to make your own? YES — and more than one!
The most obvious reason to make your own baby food: to know exactly what goes into it. You control the quality of ingredients and the freshness of the food, which also affects taste. Because you can make baby food in batches and freeze it, it also can be very cost effective. You pay only for the ingredients (not the packaging and shipping too). Also, you can craft baby’s meals to match your own. Having turkey and carrots? Cook and save some aside to puree for baby.
Traditionally, baby’s first food was rice or oatmeal cereal. Although still a fine option, low-acid fruit and sweet tasting vegetable purees are replacing those first food staples. Some simple guidelines remain constant:
- Always discuss baby’s feeding with your pediatrician.
- Avoid honey for the first two years of life, due to botulism concerns.
until baby is at least 4 months old and shows some of the following signs:
- Sitting upright without support
- Opening mouth or leaning towards food when it is offered
- Swallowing food instead of pushing it back out with the tongue
- Expression of interest in what you are eating
- Start with purees or cereals mixed with formula or breast milk
- Introduce one food at a time and wait three days to watch for any allergic reaction
- Offer food multiple times. It may take baby many introductions of a single flavor to accept it.
To prepare veggies and fruits for baby, only a couple basic cooking skills are needed (mainly to soften the food for purees): steaming, roasting and/or boiling. For example, sweet potatoes and squash are easily prepared by roasting in the oven, while carrots and broccoli can be more easily steamed or boiled. Many fruits can be either steamed or boiled. If you’re unsure, check your local library for baby food books, which are usually filled with helpful recipes and instructions.
After softening the food, a good blender or food processor will be indispensible for pureeing. Simply place the softened food in the blender/processor and process until smooth. To thin, add formula, breast milk or water.
Once baby has a few foods safely under his belt, you can start to have fun with flavor combinations by blending several ingredients into one puree. Banana with apple or strawberry puree has been a favorite in my house. Once baby is old enough, you can even add oatmeal and yogurt! Try a few flavors to see what your baby likes. Then, consider batching and freezing in ice cube trays or small containers for quick meals or on the go! Speaking of freeze, thawed frozen fruits can easily be substituted for fresh fruit!
Although only basic kitchen equipment is required, there are innovative products that can be especially helpful in making baby food. There are many baby food blender/container systems, such as the Baby Bullet (by Magic Bullet) that have all the gadgetry and supplies needed to make your own purees.
If you like the convenience of pouches, there are reusable, refillable and dishwasher safe pouches to store and dispense homemade baby food. They are also freezable and toddler friendly. Mine, made by Baby Brezza, have lasted nearly two years already!
For babies that may want to feed themselves, Boon makes Pulp, a wand-like feeding tool. Looking something like a Popsicle, the top is soft silicone and can be filled with banana, avocado, sliced berries and many other options. Baby can hold it herself and mash the fruit out through the fine holes in the top by gumming it. This also saves the step of cooking and pureeing!
With so many options from the simple reusable pouch to the very hi-tech all-in-one steamer/puree machines, it has never been easier or more convenient to DIY baby food. So, if you’d like to give fresh a try for your little one, here’s one of my kids’ favorite (and easiest) recipes:
Ingredients: 10 strawberries, 3 bananas
- Remove any tops from the strawberries and add to a food processor/blender.
- Peel bananas and add to processor/blender.
- Blend on high, occasionally stopping to scrape down sides.
- Transfer to a bowl/pouch to feed immediately or freeze in ice cube trays or small containers for later.
Feel free to substitute any berry for strawberries and watch baby enjoy!