Making Your Own Baby Food
One little fact about yours truly is that I love to cook and bake. When Pinterest became the bees knees, and food bloggers could share their recipes with attractive photos, I was so inspired to expand my taste buds. I believe some folks have a natural knack for food, myself included, and I get such happiness out of preparing wholesome, healthy meals. There’s a real satisfaction for me in knowing exactly what went into the food I prepare, that I can easily say all of the ingredients I’ve included, and have fun creating weekly meal plans for my family.
I’m a planner and organizer – I’m sure you’ve caught onto that a little bit by now. So each Friday or Saturday, I sit down with my notebook, peruse my Pinterest recipe boards and plan out our meals for the full week. I make my list and am able to knock out all of our grocery shopping in under one hour in one trip. I’ve been doing it for the last 7 or so years and it’s been so great for us! During the mid-week hustle, I don’t have to stop and think of what to make for dinner, or try and squeeze in a quick trip to the grocery store to grab ingredients. It’s saved me time, money and headaches.
When I was pregnant and formulating goals in my mind, a natural childbirth, breastfeeding, cloth diapering and making my own baby food topped the list. I kept them as goals – not hard fast rules because moms need breaks! And childbirth and babies are so unpredictable. This was my first pregnancy and baby and I promised myself I would aspire to achieve these goals but not put too much pressure on myself to maintain them if it was too stressful. I am happy (and a little proud, not gonna lie) that I have been able to meet them all.
But! The one that has given me the most anxiety is making baby food! It seems silly because that is the one that I arguably have the most control over, and least impacted by my little one, right? I have looked up countless pins on Pinterest of what to do, but with SO MANY options (which fruits, which veggies, in what order, at what age, roasted? steamed? sauteed?) I would sit on my couch and just think. Or stare at my food processor for moments and just not even know where to start. AND I love to cook! So it was completely perplexing. I finally just sat down with a list, equal parts veggies and fruits, and took the plunge.
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The little peanut has now been eating pureed and mashed baby foods for the better part of 2 months. Here’s a few things that have helped me keep the anxiety in check, stay focused and be efficient in making her food!
Like I said, there are so many options when it comes to baby food. It can be overwhelming. When you’re starting out though, you want to keep it simple. We began with one ingredient, pureed foods. Squash, Apples, Carrots, Pears, Bananas & Sweet Potatoes. I added these six items to my grocery list, buying 2-3 of the fruits and vegetables and knew on Sunday of that week, I was going to spend a couple hours in the kitchen making food. Be sure to think about your week/weekend ahead and earmark some time to get this done.
It’s much more efficient to steam/puree/package a bunch of food all at once so you’re not having to constantly lug out the food processessor to make a quick batch. And having to wash all the dishes each time. It will become a pain and you’re going to get over making baby food real quick and think ‘why can’t I just buy 20 packages at the store?’ Because it’s stupid expensive. That’s why. 🙂
Also, assess your kitchen situation and determine if you have the tools you need to make the food. I’ve steamed all of my fruits & veggies, so a little steamer like this one that fits perfectly into a pot works great. I also have a large Kitchen Aid food processor that I got for Christmas a couple years ago. I use it all the time for making meals, and it has a smaller bowl more appropriate for the baby food. If you don’t have a processor already, ANY processor will work. You don’t need to get the darling Baby Bullet, although it does look really cute. This one from Kitchen Aid is the perfect size. I also use a silicon spatula to scrape all the food out – we don’t want any of it going to waste!
I will also note here that while a blender or magic bullet could potentially work, I find I have more control over the consistency of the puree by using a food processor. If the puree is too thick, you can easily add fresh or refrigerated (NOT previously frozen) breastmilk to the puree to thin it out.
Once you’ve got your food steamed & pureed, you’ll need someplace to store them in. I’ve seen recommendations on Pinterest for using ice cube trays, because each cube is equivalent to one ounce of food. I have used them, and it’s nice that once frozen, you can throw a bunch into a ziplock freezer bag for storage. One thing that I have found annoying with this method (tho it is certainly cost effective for freezing individual servings) is that my little one eats at least 2 ice cubes’ worth at a time. So I have to find a container large enough to hold the two oddly shaped frozen cubes.
With taking my little one to daycare each day, I have really leaned on using these 2oz freezer safe plastic containers from OXO. I really love the OXO brand for a number of kitchen items. They have long lasting, good quality, smart designs. Plus, these containers come in a variety of different colors which is appealing. I like being able to put the food directly into the container, stack them on their handy trays for convenient storage and freeze them. Each night, I take out 2-3 containers to thaw in the fridge overnight and they’re ready for my little one to eat by the next morning. While there’s a little more cost upfront in purchasing a few sets of these containers, the long term convenience of their use is worth it to me.
Storing & Organizing
Again, I’m a planner. And detailed. Heaven help my husband but he totally understands this and let’s me do my thing. Now that I have a few different foods steamed, pureed and in the darling OXO Containers, I need to remember what the heck they are! Let me introduce you to one of my favorite Amazon 2am browsing-while-nursing-finds…. WASHABLE. REMOVABLE. Food Labels. They fit the lids of the OXO containers like they were designed for them. I use a fine tip Sharpie and write the contents and date it was prepared and plop it on the lid.
Not only does it help me keep track of what foods I have in my freezer, it helps my little one’s teachers at daycare know what it is they’re giving her. Because once you start blending foods, a sweet potato, carrots and squash all look pretty similar. Also, the best part is – they come off SO easily! And they don’t leave residue behind. Forgot to take off the label and washed the lid & got it all wet? No problem – does not affect how easily it comes off! The freezer also doesn’t compromise the ‘stick’ of the label’s glue and it stays securely on the container. Love. Love. Love.
After a few weeks, and going through the first six fruits and vegetables listed above, I wanted to get a little more creative and combine flavors. I also saw this as an opportunity to expose her to new foods and tastes. I found a list on tried and true Pinterest and selected 5 different combinations at a time to prepare. The list has about 25 varieties and has a good balance of fruits and vegetables. I rotate a few different ones a day while adding some Cheerio’s and almond milk based yogurt to her snacks.
It’s worked out so well and I love knowing she’s developing tastes for all sorts of healthy and nutritious foods packed with vitamins and minerals that she needs, without all the preservatives, added sugars and elements that she doesn’t need! Just search for baby food combinations and a plethora of pins pop up with all sorts of ideas to spur your creativity!
You can easily incorporate an unknown, third ingredient with two that have already been eaten to provide new and exciting tastes. Like, pumpkin/apple/carrots, or apple/pears/blueberry. She also really loves banana/carrot/apple….so you’re slowly but surely broadening little one’s palate.
A Few Things To Keep In Mind
Allergies – it is recommended that when starting out, you introduce the same food for three to four days in a row. That way, if your little one develops any allergic reaction to a particular food, you know exactly what it is and can work with your pediatrician on strategies to introduce the food again in the future and overcome the allergy.
Start with one to two meals a day and gradually increase the amount. Your baby’s main source of nutrition and calories will still be coming form formula or breastmilk. It’s just that by this age, their demands exceed what milk is able to exclusively provide. We began with a two ounce container of food for a morning snack and one in the afternoon, and building from there.
If you’re looking to thin out the consistency of a puree for, say carrots or sweet potatoes, you can certainly use expressed breastmilk to add some additional nutrition to the puree! Just remember to never use previously frozen breastmilk, since it will only last for 24 hrs once defrosted and can’t be frozen again. Many times, you’ll be making purees ahead and freezing for the coming days. This wouldn’t work with frozen breastmilk in the mix!
At around 8 months, you can start to mash the foods instead of pureeing them. Simply steam or roast as you normally would and instead of throwing them in the processor, use a fork or potato masher to crush the food. Adding that texture can will safely get them accustomed to having to start chewing their food, but it’s softened/small enough to not pose a choking hazard.
NO honey! Babies should not be given honey until they’re a year old. They can contract botulism, which is a food poisoning that affect nerves in the body. It is acquired from foods that have not been processed properly and honey typically has minimal processing to it, leaving it open to susceptibility.
Many pediatricians are recommending we start introducing peanut better early to curtail an allergy to it. While most daycares do not allow it, mix some into their oatmeal, yogurt or a banana at home. I try to give my daughter a couple servings of food with peanut butter included each week to slowly get her body introduced to it. This differs from recommendations even 5 years ago but recent studies have confirmed that an early introduction to the food will reduce the likelihood of an allergy!
Making your own baby food can be inexpensive, easy and healthy! Best of luck as you begin this endeavor – I hope some of this advice makes life a little easier for ya!