Believe it or not, your baby will begin transitioning to solid foods somewhere around the six-month mark, around the same time they’re adjusting their sleep. And while store-bought baby food is convenient, you don’t have to limit yourself to it.
Unlike adult food, the work required for homemade baby food is surprisingly minimal. All you need is the right tools and a bit of guidance — both of which are covered in this article — and making baby food at home will be a breeze.
When Should I Introduce My Baby to Solid Foods?
According to Malina Malkani, a pediatric dietician, “most babies are developmentally ready to start solid foods between four and six months.” However, the American Academy of Pediatrics, World Health Organization, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all recommend waiting until about six months old.
Before transitioning to solids, make sure your baby is sitting up independently, grasping objects, showing interest in food, moving their head from side to side, and bringing larger objects to their mouths.
Benefits of Homemade Food
Not only is homemade baby food relatively simple to make, but it’s incredibly cost-effective. More often than not, you can simply take food that you’re preparing for yourself and process it to a safe consistency for your baby.
Feeding young babies the same foods as adults is a great way to expose them to a variety of nutritious foods. Plus, you’ll always know exactly what your baby is eating, and you can make sure their food is free from the additives and preservatives sometimes found in store-bought food.
What Solid Foods Should I Start My Baby On?
Malkani tells us that “it’s important to start with nutrient-dense, iron-rich foods” like puréed meats, salmon, tofu, mashed beans, or hummus. Other common first foods include mashed bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes, pureed peas, or carrots. Additionally, “it’s ideal to pair iron-rich foods with foods high in vitamin C to increase absorption,” says Malkani.
Some parents prefer to start with purées, while others opt for baby-led weaning. The latter involves introducing solid foods as appropriate finger foods — usually taken from the family table — for self-feeding. Some examples include slices of avocado, banana, scrambled eggs, or roasted sweet potatoes.
Whichever method you choose, make sure you’re watching your baby for signs of fullness. Also, avoid common choking hazards like whole grapes, nuts, popcorn, hotdogs, and big globs of peanut butter. You should also avoid honey until after their first birthday, as it contains spores that can cause infantile botulism.
What You Need To Make Homemade Baby Food
If you’re making baby food at home, we recommend investing in a blender, food processor, or food mill. Any of these devices will allow you to quickly turn a small amount of adult food — like carrots or broccoli — into delicious baby purées.
Of course, you can absolutely make baby food without the fancy equipment. Simply use a fork or potato masher to turn soft foods — like bananas, avocados, and baked sweet potatoes — into mashes for your baby.
How to Make Baby Food at Home
As long as the food is in small, mushy pieces, it’ll be safe for your baby to eat. However, there are some additional tips to keep in mind:
Fruits and Vegetables
We recommend thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables to remove any herbicides, pesticides, or dirt. If the produce is on the harder side — like potatoes, broccoli, or carrots — steam or boil them before mashing. On the other hand, if they’re naturally soft and mushy — like avocados, kiwis, and bananas — they can be mashed raw.
To make baby-safe purees, simply put your fruit or vegetable in a blender and process until it reaches the desired consistency. If you didn’t remove the peels beforehand, strain the food to remove any choking hazards.
To store, simply transfer the purée to ice cube trays, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze until your baby is ready for them. When it’s time to eat, remove the purée from the freezer and thaw. Baby food can be served cold (but not frozen), at room temperature, or lukewarm.
Grains and Cereals
Cook grains according to package instructions. Then, purée or grind them. We recommend opting for single-grain, iron-enriched, or whole-grain varieties like whole-grain oat or whole-grain barley. And if your baby is new to solids, serve puréed grains with breast milk or formula to thin out the consistency.
Meats and Poultry
You can purée trimmed and skinned meats and poultry and serve alongside puréed vegetables. If you’re unsure where to start, we recommend chicken, turkey, beef, or lamb.
Tips for Making Baby Food at Home
Want to ensure your homemade baby food endeavors are a success? Follow these simple tips:
Add Flavor – the Right Way
Because your baby’s taste buds are still developing, it’s best to serve unseasoned foods first. (Plus, this helps your baby develop a preference for a food’s authentic taste.) However, if you want to jazz up sweet potatoes, carrots, and other vegetables, you can eventually add healthy spices like cinnamon. You can also sweeten the pot by mixing in puréed apples or pears.
Practice Safe Feeding Habits
Always wash your hands thoroughly before feeding or preparing food for your baby. Additionally, make sure their food doesn’t sit at room temperature for more than two hours.
Once your baby graduates to multi-ingredient foods or recipes, make sure all dairy products are pasteurized. (Raw dairy products can contain infection-causing bacteria.) And just like adult food, raw or undercooked eggs and poultry can harbor salmonella bacteria.
How to Store Homemade Baby Food
After preparing homemade baby food, place it in an airtight, single-serving container or covered ice cube tray. Then, store it in the fridge for one or two days or in the freezer for up to two months. To heat leftovers, simply warm them up on the stove. Serve purées lukewarm – not hot.
Should I Breastfeed My Baby Alongside Solids?
Malkani says new parents should “continue breastfeeding or formula feeding alongside solids.” Solid foods are meant to complement — not replace — breast milk until your baby turns a year old.
Making Baby Food at Home
Because it’s easy to do and incredibly cost-effective, making baby food at home is a great addition to any mom’s mealtime routine. And hopefully, after reading today’s article, you’ll know exactly where to start. Keep these tips in mind, and we’re confident your little one will be enjoying nutritious, delicious, homemade meals in no time.