You probably already possess all the equipment and skills required to make homemade baby food. Your tools can be as simple as a pot with a steamer insert and a fork. Or you can purchase a food mill, food processor or blender to grind the food you cook. Bananas can be served raw, but all other foods you give to your baby need to be cooked until mushy before being mashed or ground.
The basic process is this:
- Wash fruits and vegetables under running water.
- Remove peel, pits and seeds from fresh produce; remove bones, fat and skin from fresh meats.
- On a clean cutting board, cut the food into small pieces to speed cooking.
- Put a small amount of water in the pot. It should reach just to the bottom of the steamer insert, but shouldn't immerse the food.
- Place the food on the steamer insert and put a lid on the pot.
- Bring the water to a boil, then cut back the heat until the water simmers.
- Simmer the food until it's mushy (about 15 to 20 minutes), adding water to the pot as necessary to prevent it from boiling all away.
- Remove the food to a bowl or food grinder; save the water in the pot.
- Mash cooked food with a fork, press through a strainer, or grind in a food processor, adding some of the cooking water to create the desired consistency.
- Allow the food to cool before feeding it to your child.
Remember, you're not adding salt or other seasonings. Extra food can be stored in the refrigerator for two days. If you like to cook ahead, you can spoon your home-cooked baby food into ice cube trays and freeze it in individual portions. Vegetables and fruits can be frozen for one month, while cooked pureed meats can last for two months in the freezer [source: Caplan].
As your baby grows older and more experienced with food, you can vary the texture by mashing or grinding it a little bit less. Children can gum soft foods even before they have teeth. This helps them learn to chew, an important step that aids digestion and prepares infants to move on to more solid foods.
From nine to 12 months of age, your baby will probably start showing interest in the food everyone else at the table eats. The good news is, as long as you're eating the same type of foods the baby has been eating, he or she should be able to handle it digestively. You can start giving him or her a taste here and there of mashed or finely chopped bits of the regular family fare. Move gradually to including junior in the meal with small portions precut to meet his or her chewing abilities. In a few weeks, you won't need to cook separately for baby.
There are many benefits to making baby food at home from fresh ingredients. In addition to saving money, making your own baby food fosters good health and eating habits and includes your baby as part of the family, allowing him or her to get used to the types of food the rest of the family eats before he or she progresses to table food. Commercially packaged baby food, however, can be convenient when you're traveling. You should also include several jars in your family's emergency preparedness kit. For more helpful hints, look over the links on the next page.