Making your own baby food is easy and economical. If you choose organic baby food ingredients, you’re also protecting your baby from exposure to pesticide residues. All you need is a blender or food processor (although in many cases a fork will do the trick), and some empty ice cube trays handy for freezing small portions for future use.
Start with local, seasonal, organically grown produce. Peel and pit fruit as necessary. Peel and cook vegetables and hard fruits like apples. Preserve the maximum vitamins and minerals by steaming, baking, or broiling.
At first, puree or mash food thoroughly. You may also add breastmilk or formula to the puree, both to give it a thinner consistency and to make the flavor more familiar to your baby. Over time, add less liquid and mash the food less to let your baby experience the different textures of food.
Only portion out what you think you baby will eat and refrigerate or freeze the rest of your delicious, homemade organic baby food.
What Babies Like
Babies tend to enjoy yellow and orange fruits and vegetables such as carrots, squash, and bananas. They have more varied reactions to green veggies in their baby food.
After you’ve introduced a dish, try mixing your babies’ favorites with things they are not so thrilled with. Remember the “Rule of 10”—it may take ten “introductions” to a food before your baby really even tries it.
You may notice your child expressing interest in your food. As long as it isn’t an allergen concern (see below) or a choking hazard, by all means let them try it. Many parents even forego “baby food” altogether and just slowly introduce their babies to the family meals as appropriate.
Try not to feed your child the same similarly textured food for long periods of time. Otherwise, you’ll lose an opportunity to teach your child about the variety of flavors and textures available in different foods. Indeed, one big advantage to making your own baby food is that you can introduce more flavors and textures than are available commercially.
Watch Out: Foods to Avoid
Wait until your child is 1-year old to introduce honey, dairy, eggs, strawberries, tomatoes, citrus, and nuts. Honey can contain botulinum spores that, while harmless to older children and adults, germinate into botulinum toxins in the immature digestive tracts of babies, causing infant botulism. The other foods are common allergens whose effects can be minimized when introduced at a later age.
Beets, carrots, turnips, spinach and other greens can all contain nitrates. Nitrites are converted to nitrates when ingested and can cause anemia. Since nitrites come from the soil where vegetables are grown, check your area, in some regions (like the San Francisco Bay Area) local produce doesn’t face this problem. If your area does and you want your baby to try these foods, buy commercially produced baby foods (which are tested for nitrites) for those foods.
Commercial ground beef is a worrisome source of e. coli. Yet children do love it. If you want to feed your child ground beef, invest in a home grinder ($30-50) and grind your own. Wash and dry the meat before grinding. To further reduce risk of contagion, bring a large pot of water to a boil and boil the meat for 30 to 60 seconds before grinding to “sterilize” the potentially contaminated exterior.