The American Association of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding your baby for the first six months of life. But then what? As a parent, it’s crucial to carefully consider your little one’s first meals in order to help them to develop a positive and healthy relationship with foods and flavors. While there are many pre-made options available (and yes, these can be great for travel and other busy times!), homemade baby food gives you the confidence and peace of mind in the quality and freshness of your baby’s first foods.
The idea of making your own baby food might be a little intimidating, but it is actually a very simple process. With a little preparation and organization, even the busiest of parents can make the time to create healthy, homemade meals for their baby.
- Blender or food processor
- Small food storage containers appropriate for freezing (glass is preferable)
- Food labels: you can get fancy, or just use a sticky note and a piece of tape
- Optional but highly recommended: a food storage kit to fill your own pouches. This is not a necessity, but is very convenient for freezing meals and eating on the go.
First Foods: Simple Purees
Start out with simple, smooth purees of one vegetable, fruit, or protein at a time. It is important to choose foods that have a low probability of giving your child an allergic reaction. (See a list of common allergens here.) Wait four days after introducing a new food to try another in order to give time for rashes or more subtle allergic reactions to surface.
With all of these foods, cook according to conventional recipes and then thoroughly mash or puree. Do not add salt or sugar; although it may taste bland to you, it is healthier without it (and your baby will never know the difference!). Thin with breast milk, formula, or water, if needed.
Ideal first foods for babies:
- Sweet potatoes or yams
- Butternut squash
- Oatmeal (preferably steel-cut or whole, rolled oats)
As your baby tries more and more foods, you can experiment with different combinations to see what your little one likes and introduce unique flavor profiles.
Some tasty puree combinations are:
- Lentils, carrots, and sweet potato
- Chicken and butternut squash
- “Green smoothies” with banana, other fruits of choice, and kale, spinach or another green
To help make the task of creating and properly storing the baby food simpler, here are some tips to follow:
- Prepare meals in bulk in order to save time.
- Portion out several meals for your child to eat over the next 2-3 days (this is the shelf life for most baby foods). Store the rest in pouches or storage containers and freeze.
- Be sure to label all foods with the date prepared and ingredients
- Whenever possible, use food from your own meals in your baby food. This will cut down on preparation time and give your child more variety in his or her diet. Just be sure to avoid any ingredients that are unsuitable for your baby such as sugar, salt, honey, or any common allergens.
If your little eater is ready to try a new flavor combination, below is an easy recipe for baby-friendly oatmeal. This is a hearty and healthy alternative to the more traditional rice cereal. Opt for steel-cut or whole, rolled oats whenever possible for higher protein and iron content.
Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
- 1 cup plain oatmeal
- 3 cups water (add more if needed)
- 1 large apple
- Optional: cinnamon to taste
- Cook oatmeal according to package instructions
- Peel and finely dice apple
- Add apple when oats have 10-15 minutes of cooking time left
- Optional: finish with a dash of cinnamon to intrigue your baby’s taste buds
- Allow to cool and then puree until smooth