- How to Make Your Own Baby Food
and Save a Fortune!
- By Meredith Edwards-Cornwall
Baby in a highchair, mom in front
with a small spoon and a jar of baby food. It looks like something
right out of a parenting magazine, and its a scene that
is played out several times a day in the majority of homes with
small babies. Unfortunately, its also a powerful marketing
image that can cost a family a great deal of money in the long
The Convenience Factor
Most parents would say the main
reason for using commercial jarred baby food is the convenience
aspect. After all, with the busy lifestyle many of us have today,
no one has time to specially prepare a meal for each member of
the family. It doesnt have to be a special event to create
your own baby food, however. Baby can usually eat what the rest
of the family is eating with very little special preparation.
Everyone worries about proper
nutrition for growing babies. Iron, calcium, and vitamin D
all of these things are legitimate concerns in childrens
nutrition. However, fortified and processed foods arent
necessarily better than whole foods. Homemade baby food, created
from fresh ingredients, offers your child superior nutrition
as well as encourages a taste for simple, unprocessed foods
a taste that will possibly prevent obesity-related problems later
in life. Its not necessary to offer commercial baby foods
in order to have a healthy child.
Why pay more for an inferior
product? Beginning baby food often runs between forty and seventy
cents for two ounces. Its entirely possible to purchase
half a pound of produce for the same amount, and baby will reap
the benefits of eating fresh, nutritious food. Buying produce
in bulk can result in even more savings, and even frozen produce
is preferable to what you find in the jars.
Its important to know when
baby is actually ready for solids. Introducing solids too early
can lead to an increased likelihood of food intolerances and
food allergies. Most medical associations agree that starting
solids around six months of age is ideal, and many people find
delaying solids for allergy-prone babies is even better. Signs
of readiness for solids include:
* Increased nursing for more
than a few days, which is unrelated to illness or teething, or,
if baby is fed artificial baby milk, consuming more than 32 ounces
* Ability to sit up unsupported.
* Absence of the tongue-thrust
reflex. This life-saving reflex causes babies to push foreign
objects (in this case, solid foods) out of their mouths to avoid
* Ability to pick foods up and
place in mouth independently (or development of the pincer grasp).
What About Allergies?
Experts recommend introducing
new foods between three days and a week apart. This helps parents
and caregivers identify signs of a food allergy or intolerance.
Common signs of food allergy/intolerance are:
* Increased bloating and gassiness,
* Sandpaper-like raised rash
on face, often where the offending food made contact with skin.
* Runny nose and watery eyes.
* Diarrhea or mucous in the stools.
Blood in the stool can also be an indicator of a food allergy,
usually dairy or soy.
* Red rash around anus, or an
unusual diaper rash.
* Vomiting or increased spit
up with discomfort.
Ideally, it is best to introduce
foods that are less likely to produce an allergic reaction in
baby. Avoiding foods such as egg whites, certain nuts such as
peanuts, cows milk, corn, wheat, and some berries such
as strawberries is recommended, as they are more likely to cause
reactions. Instead, start with foods that are easier on babys
system. Some good ideas include:
* Sweet potatoes
* Brown rice
Tools of the Trade
Fancy equipment isnt necessary
to make healthy food for your baby. Things that might be helpful
include a blender, a food mill, a steamer basket and ice cube
trays if you want to freeze small portions. Most people have
blenders already in their kitchens, and a food mill (or baby
grinder) isnt necessary if you have a good blender or food
processor. Steamer baskets can be found in most grocery stores
for only a few dollars, and fit easily into saucepans. Many beginner
foods require nothing more than a small pan and a fork.
Many doctors recommend starting
your baby on rice cereal first. Many parents find, however, that
fruits go over better for beginning eaters. It is a myth that
babies will prefer sweet things if they are given fruits first
natures first food, breast milk, is naturally sweet,
and that is what baby is accustomed to. Banana is a wonderful
first food, as its creamy consistency is similar to mothers
milk. After introducing banana, try another fruit or vegetable.
Continue adding fruits and vegetables until baby has a wide variety
of tastes. Then consider adding whole grains in the form of cereal.
Many whole grains have naturally occurring iron, so there is
no need to supplement babys iron unless there is a medical
indication for doing so. Brown rice, oats, and barley are all
good choices. Next, introduce a meat or poultry such as beef
or chicken. If you are a vegetarian, introduce another protein
source such as tofu or lentils. As time goes on, introduce a
combination of tastes, such as cereal mixed with applesauce or
peas and carrots. This is also a great time to introduce finger
foods, especially if baby has teeth. As baby learns to self-feed,
you can move away from making purees and offer small baby-sized
portions of the family meal.
Bananas make an ideal food for
a baby starting solids. To serve, let bananas ripen well (the
more ripe, the better brown spots are desirable), cut
into small chunks and mash with a fork. Pears are an excellent
source of fiber and can be cooked like apples: peel and cut into
chunks. Place in small saucepan and just cover with water. Cook
until tender. These can then be mashed with a fork, run through
a food mill, processed in a blender or food processor. They can
also be offered as finger food if they are cut into small enough
chunks. Carrots, another popular first food, should be scraped
with a vegetable peeler, sliced and steamed or boiled until soft.
Process in blender or food mill. Carrots can be a choking hazard
for children, so do use caution if offering as a finger food.
Sweet potatoes are extremely
easy to make, and one potato can last a long time if frozen after
cooking. Place sweet potato in a microwave for about eight minutes,
remove and let cool. Open up and serve right out of the peel
the potato is very soft and needs no further processing.
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of B6.
Winter squash such as acorn or
butternut makes an excellent first food. Cut squash in half and
clean. Place in one half inch of water in a baking pan and bake
at three hundred and fifty degrees for half an hour. Use a spoon
to scoop out squash and feed directly to baby.
Avocados are an extremely nutrient
dense food and offers important vitamins and minerals such as
iron and potassium. Cut avocado in half around the pit, grab
each half and give it a twist. Scoop out meat and mash or dice.
Making cereal for baby is very
easy. Take a cup of the whole grain if your choice such as brown
rice, oats, or barley and process in the blender until the desired
consistency is reached, usually about two minutes for very young
babies. Store in an airtight container. To cook, mix with liquid
of your choice and heat over medium heat on stove until thick.
Enjoy this fun stage in babys
development, and rest assured that baby is getting superior nutrition
and developing good eating habits which will last a lifetime!