Have you thought about making baby food? The idea may be overwhelming—parenthood is tough and we’re all just trying to survive (especially if you’re not getting much sleep!). But before you click away, we’re going to let you in on a little secret. Making baby food is easier than you think (we promise!). It’s also great for your little one, and can be a pretty quick process (as long as you’re organized). Plus, it saves money, and is better for the environment (just think of all those discarded jars and pouches).
Ready to get started? Here’s the process that will turn you from beginner chef to baby food maker extraordinaire.
The American Association of Pediatrics recommends waiting until six months of age before introducing solids. During this period, breastmilk is the best form of nutrition—it provides everything your baby needs for healthy growth. There are so many benefits to breastfeeding through a year of age; by breastfeeding for longer your baby is less likely to become overweight, it will be easier to introduce solids (when the time comes), and you’ll save money (it’s free!). If you’re self-conscious about nursing in public, invest in a cover that won’t ride up or fly away (like our very own Covered Goods!).
When your baby is around six months of age, you can look for signs that she’s developmentally ready for solid foods. A few indicators: she’s sitting up on her own, is able to pick up food between her thumb and forefinger, and appears ready to chew. Around this time she may also be starting to develop an interest in food and mealtime. It’s exciting—you’re about to enter a new (and fun!) stage of parenthood. It’s also the perfect opportunity to start making baby food.
Here’s the good news. You probably have most of what you need in your kitchen already. Of course, there are a host of expensive baby food makers on the market. If the money’s in your budget, go for it. We are huge fans of the Baby Bullet by Magic Bullet and all the accessories that come with it. That being said, it’s not necessary to spend a fortune on something you’ll only use for a short period of time. Instead, check that you’ve got a good blender or food processor (an immersion blender also works!), steamer (a colander or steaming basket), and stove-top. You’ll also need some ice cube trays for freezing (BPA free), and large gallon-sized plastic bags. Add in a sharpie (for labeling) and you’re set!
What should you feed baby? A lot depends on age (see our chart for some guidance). New York nutritionist Jamie Pittman MS, RDN, CDN suggests using organic, if possible—it will cut down on the number of pesticides baby is exposed to. “Creating your own organic baby food provides you with the opportunity to blend in ingredients that will increase the absorption of nutrients, without the concern for added preservatives or pesticide residue," she says. "For example, combining Extra Virgin Olive Oil with vitamin A rich vegetables or fruits will help increase the absorption of the fat- soluble vitamins in the foods the oil is blended with.” Don't forget to scrub and peel things thoroughly.
This isn’t a project to do piecemeal—if you can carve out a few hours on a Sunday afternoon, you can make enough to last the whole week. Boil your water in a big pot, and fill the colander or steamer basket with your fruit or vegetable of choice. Check whether the food is done by piercing with a fork—if it’s soft, it’s done. Dump everything in your blender or food processor, and make sure to save some of the steaming water. Puree until smooth; use the steaming water to thin things out if the consistency’s not right. And get creative! Mix and match different fruits with veggies; you can find great recipes online with a quick Google search. Need ideas? Check out our chart below. Note: some fruits and veggies don’t need to be cooked prior to mashing—avocado and banana are two.
Freeze your food into small portions using the ice cube trays you’ve put aside (tip: if you can find silicone trays it will be much easier to pop out the cubes). These little servings will firm up quickly in the freezer. Once they’re done, remove from the tray and store in a freezer bag. Make sure to label the bag with the date and contents (March 15th, sweet potato), so you know what baby’s eating.
When it comes to defrosting baby food, the same rules apply as for breastmilk: avoid defrosting in the microwave (it can make for uneven heating and hot spots). If you need to defrost in the microwave, use the defrost setting, heat for 15 seconds at a time, and stir well. Better yet, plan ahead and stick a cube (or three) in the refrigerator a few hours before you’re ready to feed baby. Pittman also suggests giving your baby some water as he or she starts to eat more solids, to prevent constipation.
Ready to get going? We'd love to hear what some of your baby's first foods were. Let us know in the comments below!