Making Your Own Baby Food
You don’t have to be a culinary whiz to make delicious homemade food for your baby. These simple tips will help you whip up delightful dishes for your tiny taster.
When to Start
Most babies are introduced to “solid” foods between 4 and 6 months. Consult with your pediatrician to determine your baby’s individual readiness (signs usually include the ability to sit up unassisted, a growing appetite, interest in your food and making chewing motions).
Your baby’s first foods will be soft, mild and actually quite runny. Organic bananas, pears, avocados and baked sweet potatoes are all excellent choices; they’re each rich in nutrition and sweet enough to satisfy your baby’s delicate palette. To prepare, just puree with enough warm water until it’s the consistency of gravy; coating the back of a wooden spoon but still dripping off easily.
What You Need
These foods will be raw, steamed or roasted to start, then pureed with water so the requirements are simple: a baking sheet, sauce pan, blender, bowls, soft spoons and plenty of storage containers. (Try a silicone freezing tray plus 4-oz plastic cups with lids for thawing individual portions in the fridge.) Alternatively, opt for a countertop baby food maker, which combines a handy steamer and blender functionality in one small size.
Flavors and Seasoning
They may be little but babies still have a keen sense of taste. Prepare foods in the most flavorful way possible to ensure the best results. Roasting vegetables (at 425 degrees) will always produce a more savory taste than steaming, especially with a small pinch of salt and light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Fruit — plums, apples, pears, even bananas — can also be cut up for the oven (at 350 degrees) to produce maximum sweetness with a more luscious texture.
Grinding Up Grains
While organic rice cereal isn’t hard to find, it’s also easy to prepare other healthy whole grains for babies from scratch. Using a new coffee grinder, grind uncooked brown rice, quinoa, millet or steel-cut oats into a powder. Prepare individual servings by simmering 1 tablespoon of powder plus ½ cup of water, or make a big batch at once and freeze it for later.
Once your baby has tried a handful of new foods without an allergic reaction, experiment with combining them as you cook. Carrots and apples baked together make for a delicious new spin on applesauce. Butternut squash pairs well with banana, and a combination of chicken, plus any in-season vegetable is definitely worth a shot.
Quantity and Serving Size
To start, your baby will only eat a couple tablespoons of food at a time (so be prepared to freeze much of your first batches of baby food). If he turns his head or spits it out, don’t push it. Just offer a few bites over the course of a few minutes and if it’s a no-go this time, try again a week later.
Time of Day
Always introduce one new food at a time so you can easily determine whether your baby has an allergic reaction (typically a rash or runny nose). For this reason, lunch is the recommended meal to start with. You’ll have the rest of the day to watch for and react to any problems, which are rare, but it’s best to be on the safe side.
Make Veggies More Appealing
If Baby shows resistance to green vegetables, try an Italian trick: combine pureed spinach with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. If peas are a no-go add a bit of fresh mint. And green beans are always tastier with a tiny bit of butter and salt. Add only the smallest pinches to avoid overwhelming those little kidneys but feel free to season your baby’s food with the most delicious options available.
Since many of the recommended first foods are thick and starchy (think rice cereal and bananas), it’s not unusual for a baby’s delicate system to get backed up in the beginning. If this happens, increase the amount of water you’re using in each serving and offer a bottle of room temperature water in between meals. Also try pureed prunes or pears and avoid applesauce, cereal or bananas.