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 below.
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More Great Links
- American Academy of Pediatrics. "Safety for Your Child." Age-Related Safety Sheets: Birth to 6 Months. The Injury Prevention Program. (Accessed 01/12/2009) http://www.aap.org/family/birthto6.htm
- American Academy of Pediatrics. "When can my baby start eating solid foods?" Parenting Corner Q&A: Starting Solid Foods. September 2008. (Accessed 01/12/2009) http://www.aap.org/publiced/BR_Solids.htm
- Canadian Food Inspection Agency. "Health Hazard Alert: Certain Pear Juices for Toddlers May Contain Arsenic." March 11, 2008. (Accessed 01/12/2009) http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/corpaffr/recarapp/2008/20080311e.shtml
- Caplan, Theresa. The First Twelve Months of Life: Your Baby's Growth Month by Month. New York: A Pedigree Book published by The Putnam Publishing Group, 1993.
- Corley, Heather. "Baby Food and Baby Formula Recalls." About.com (Accessed 01/09/2009) http://babyproducts.about.com/od/recallsandsafety/a/formula_recalls.htm
- Fuhrman, Joel, M.D. Disease-Proof Your Child: Feeding Kids Right. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2005.
- Gebhardt, Susan E. and Robin G. Thomas. "Nutritive Value of Foods." Home and Garden Bulletin Number 72. Revised October 2002. USDA Agricultural Research Service. (Accessed 01/10/2009) http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/Data/HG72/hg72_2002.pdf
- Greer, Frank R., M.D. and Michael Shannon, M.D. "Infant Methemoglobinemia: The role of Dietary Nitrate in Food and Water." Pediatrics September 3, 2005: 784-786. (Accessed 01/12/2009) http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;116/3/784
- Hanula, Gail M. "Making Your Own Baby Food." Food & Nutrients Education. The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. November 2002. (Accessed 01/13/2009) http://www.fcs.uga.edu/ext/pubs/fdns/efnep/FDNS-NE-1501a.pdf
- Shelov, Steven P., M.D. and Robert E. Hannemann, M.D., eds. Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5. New York: Bantam Books, updated 2005
- Tallman, Cheryl and Joan Ahlers. "Homemade Baby Food: A Fresh Start to Healthy Eating." Organic.org. (Accessed 01/13/2009) http://www.organic.org/articles/showarticle/article-107
- Stallone, Daryth D., Ph.D. and Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D. "Cheating Babies: Nutritional Quality and Cost of Commercial Baby Food." Center for Science in the Public Interest. April 1995. (Accessed 01/13/2009) http://www.cspinet.org/reports/cheat1.html
- Tamborlane, William V., M.D., ed. The Yale Guide to Children's Nutrition. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997.
- United States Department of Agriculture. "Food Labeling." Food Safety and Inspection Service. Fact Sheets. February 8, 2007. (Accessed 01/11/2009) http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Factsheets/Food_Product_Dating/index.asp
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (1). "FDA Warns Consumers Not to Use Certain Jars of Earth's Best: 'Organic 2 Apple Peach Barley Wholesome Breakfast Baby Food'." FDA News. February 16, 2007. (Accessed 01/12/2009) http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2007/NEW01566.html
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2). "H-E-B Issues Baby Food Recall." Recall -- Firm Press Release. March 15, 2006. (Accessed 01/12/2009) http://www.fda.gov/oc/po/firmrecalls/heb03_06.html
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (3). "Health Hazard Alert -- Certain President's Choice Baby Food Jars May be Contaminated with Harmful Bacteria." Recall -- Canadian Government Press Release. April 9, 2005. (Accessed 01/12/2009) http://www.fda.gov/oc/po/firmrecalls/cfia04_05.html