DIY Baby Food
Some parents do it
for the simple joy and challenge of preparing wholesome foods for their
children, others go the do-it-yourself route because it’s cheaper than
commercially made products, but Oakland has found that the parents who attend
her classes at Columbia Center (an independent childbirth hospital located on
the campus of Columbia St. Mary's Hospital in Mequon) are more interested in monitoring
what goes into their children’s bodies.
awareness of the pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers sprayed on our produce
and the numerous food recalls due to widespread contamination have incited
parents to arm themselves with food processors, blenders and mashing forks in
order to prepare safe, nutritious and economical food for their babies at home.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends
introducing solid food to a baby around 6 months of age. In order to be aware
of the health and safety issues involved, parents should first consult with
their baby’s pediatrician before preparing and introducing homemade foods.
Then, when trying new foods, Oakland
says to offer your baby the same food four days in a row and watch for any
signs of an allergic reaction.
“It’s important to
expose your baby to each new food independently to determine any reactions
before you can begin combining different foods for tasty new creations,” Oakland says. “When you
begin to introduce foods to babies, remember they are accustomed to breast milk
or formula which has no texture. So when we begin introducing foods with
texture, the pureed foods are more acceptable to babies at first.”
A few tools are
needed to cook, grind, blend and puree your baby’s food, but they don’t have to
be expensive. Indeed, there are some pricey all-in-one appliances that act as a steamer, blender, warmer and defroster, but at $150 you
aren’t saving as much money in preparing your own baby food. Many home cooks
already own a steamer, blender or food processor they can use, or choose to
invest $30 on a baby-sized food processor. If you want to make it really
simple, look in your kitchen drawers for a boiling pot, a potato masher and a
At 6 months old, babies can digest fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry,
fish and grain, but, like most things baby-related, there is plenty of useful
advice—backed by experience—when it comes to selecting your baby’s first solid
“The one item that is commonly discussed as the best first food is rice
says. “Rice is very bland, [it
doesn’t have] much flavor and it’s easy to digest when mixed with breast milk,
formula or water.”
Fresh fruits and
vegetables are excellent starters for homemade baby food. Another first-food Oakland suggests:
“We don’t often think of
it, but it’s very high in nutrition and very easy to prepare,” Oakland explains. “It doesn’t have to be
cooked; it’s easy to mash; easy to make into a pureed food; and often, when
it’s introduced early on, babies really enjoy avocado.”
Other ideal foods
include apples, bananas, peas, peaches, pears, potatoes, sweet potatoes and
Peel each food, boil
firm foods in water (or steam them) until soft, and puree food in a blender
until the desired texture is reached. You can make more than one meal per
cooking session by freezing the excess pureed food in ice cube trays, storing
the frozen baby food cubes in plastic bags, and then thawing and heating the
cubes as needed. Those frozen fruits and vegetables can be kept in the freezer
for about six months, and meat can be kept for two.
baby food isn’t as time-consuming as many parents may think. Parents don’t have
to make a whole separate meal for baby, but instead can prepare it along with
the rest of the family’s meal.
Say you make your
family a dinner of baked rosemary chicken, garlic mashed potatoes and steamed
carrots. Simply skip added seasonings such as salt and sugar when portioning
out food for baby, and puree each food separately. The food has plenty of
natural flavors that your baby’s inexperienced palate will appreciate.
and dads have the distinct advantage of getting their babies acclimated to
eating the same food as the rest of the family, a technique that may see its
payout during the picky toddler years.
There are certain foods parents need to delay introducing to their
little ones, or avoid all together. Obviously, skip foods that have been
treated with harmful herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers. Oakland suggests avoiding vegetables that
contain nitrates (broccoli, beets, cabbage, radish, spinach, turnips and
rhubarb), too much of which can make a baby very sick.
You should also wait until your baby is a year old before giving him or
her honey, dairy, eggs, gluten, strawberries, tomatoes, citrus and nuts, all
common allergens with effects that can be minimized when introduced at an older
There are a number of quality resources out there to support parents
looking to make their own baby food, such as The Big Book of Recipes for Babies, Toddlers and Children by
Bridget Wardley and Judy More and www.homemade-baby-food-recipes.com. As the family education and support coordinator at Columbia Center,
Oakland facilitates a number of groups and
classes at Columbia
Center for new parents,
including next spring’s lesson on making homemade baby food.
For more information, visit www.columbiacenter.org.