Transitioning to Solids: How to Make Your Own Baby Food
Once a baby starts weaning from breast milk, it’s time to shift gears to baby food. Does that make you think of messy faces and messier floors? Baby food jars and pouches? Boxes of rice cereal? What about food processors and ice cube trays? Avocados and sweet potatoes? Although packaged baby food from the grocery store is a convenient option, making fresh food into baby food in your own home does not take too much effort either.
Why should you make your own baby food?
There are some good reasons for choosing to make your own baby food:
- It gives you peace of mind. You’ll know exactly what is in the food because you are making it yourself. There’s no worry about factory contamination or the addition of sodium or preservatives.
- It’s healthier. Fresh food has more nutrients than manufactured and processed food. Making it at home means you get to preserve all those vitamins and minerals in fruits, vegetables and meat. You’ll pass on the most optimal version of the food to your baby, chock full of the good stuff.
- It tastes better. Fresh made baby food tastes much better than store-bought! You can even make your own combinations of foods and spices to create more diverse options for your baby to try.
- It’s economical. Making large batches of homemade baby food can save you money. It is less expensive to buy fresh ingredients and make the food yourself. There is also a lot of water in jarred baby food and pouches. Though not necessarily unhealthy, you are paying for a lot of liquid and not as much substance.
- It’s better for the environment. Reducing your carbon footprint means reducing the waste we generate. Don’t underestimate how many packages and bottles you’ll collect over the months using packaged baby food!
- It gives you a sense of accomplishment. Transitioning to solids is a milestone. And there’s nothing like standing in front of a huge batch of baby food that you just finished making yourself. You’ll be confident in knowing that your baby is going to have good, healthy food ready-to-eat, possibly for weeks to come.
How do you make it?
For the simplest of baby foods, you can start by just mashing it with a fork. For example, bananas are often a first food because it is naturally soft. They are portable for eating outside of the house and requires no refrigeration or special tools.
Mash some in a bowl with some breastmilk or formula so that it is the right consistency for a new eater. More practiced eaters can eat mashed bananas, avocados, and cooked sweet potatoes without the addition of a liquid.
As your baby grows and is eating more solid food and less breastmilk or formula, you’ll want his solid meals to be heartier. Consider using a food processor to blend cooked protein and vegetables to provide a more complete meal.
A larger food processor is good for pureeing large batches. But don’t fill your freezer with just one kind of food. You’ll want to make a variety of foods so that your baby gets a wide ranger of nutrients and flavors.
As your baby gets old enough to eat more adventurously, you can keep a small food processor on your counter to grind up some of the family dinner. Some less greasy options would be recommended though. For example, grilled chicken and steamed green beans can be ground up for a baby’s meal.
How do you store the baby food?
Purchase baby food storage containers with lids to store your food in the refrigerator or freezer. There are many options available. One easy way to store lots of food is simply to use inexpensive ice cube trays. Once the food is frozen, transfer them from ice cube trays to labeled plastic freezer bags. Thaw a few cubes or more the night before in the refrigerator for your baby’s meals. These make small servings to reduce waste and if the baby wants more, you can easily heat up another cube.
There are baby food-making systems like the popular Baby Bullet available too. They often come with a blender, storage cups, and other accessories.
Tip: If you want to avoid the microwave to heat up baby food, put the storage cup/container in the bottle warmer for a few minutes.
How do I transition my baby to solids?
A baby needs to be able to sit up well on their own so that they can swallow safely before you introduce solids. Many parents start with some kind of baby cereal, like rice cereal. You can make your own rice cereal by pureeing cooked brown rice. Or you can buy a box of powdered rice cereal that you mix with breastmilk or formula. You’ll want to really thin it out at the beginning to help your baby get used to the texture and sensation of swallowing. As they adjust over days and weeks, you can start introducing different homemade baby foods, one at a time.
Foods are introduced individually in order to check for allergies. Babies who tolerate apples and bananas, for example, can then safely eat a puree of apples and bananas together for a different flavor.
If you’re interested in learning more about making your own baby food, consider joining other moms at the Motherhood Center’s “Introducing Solids and Childhood Nutrition” class commencing soon. The class will teach you how to help your baby transition to solids and how to take steps now to create an adventurous and healthy eater in the future. Call us or check our website for more information on our upcoming classes.