The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breast-feeding until six months of age. Talk with your pediatrician about the best time for your baby to start solids. If your little one is ready for solid foods, you have numerous nutritious options at the supermarket to feed your baby. And, if you prepare homemade baby food, you have even more variety: Not only can you pick from all the fruits and vegetables in the produce section, but also frozen veggies and fruit canned in its own juice. Making your own food can expose babies to more flavors, which can help them become more adventurous eaters. Furthermore, by avoiding added sugars and salt, you're in greater control of your baby's nutrition.
Follow these guidelines if you choose to prepare homemade baby food:
If you are interested in preparing your own baby food but find the idea daunting, start with just a few homemade items to supplement store-bought baby food. Mashing a very ripe avocado or banana is a good place to begin. After your baby responds well, you can try preparing nutrient-rich foods that aren't common in the baby food aisle, such as beets, broccoli, turnips, asparagus, spinach, blueberries, kale, mango and papaya.
Use whatever is in season and tastes fresh. Everyone in the family will get to enjoy the same nutritious foods, which will save you time and effort.
Be vigilant about sanitation. Use only well-scrubbed and washed produce, and clean hands, utensils, cutting boards and countertops.
- Wash, peel and remove seeds or pits from produce. Take special care with fruits and vegetables that are grown close to the ground; they may contain spores of Clostridium botulinum or contain other harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning.
- Cook food until it's very tender. Steaming and microwaving in just a little water are good methods to retain vitamins and minerals in fruits and vegetables. When cooking meats and fish, remove all fat, gristle, skin and bones before cooking. Be certain that all meats and fish are cooked to proper temperatures.
- Puree or mash fresh fruit or fruit canned in its own juice. Never add honey, corn syrup or other sweeteners.
- Cook eggs, meats and poultry until well done. Babies are especially susceptible to food poisoning caused by eating undercooked meats, poultry and eggs.
- For convenience, freeze prepared baby food for later use. Freeze it in small portions in a clean ice cube tray. Once frozen, put the cubes into clean, airtight, freezer-safe food containers for single-serving portions. As another method, use the "plop and freeze" technique: plop meal-size spoonfuls of pureed food onto a cookie sheet, freeze, then transfer the frozen baby food to clean freezer-safe containers for storage in the freezer.
- If you're cooking the same food for the rest of the family, remove the baby's portion before adding salt and seasonings. A baby's tastebuds can be very sensitive. As the baby grows and becomes more used to table food, feel free to add seasonings other than salt.
Keeping Baby Safe
Preparing homemade baby food requires extra care to keep baby's food safe and to retain the nutrients from fresh foods. After you've prepared the food, either serve it or refrigerate it right away. Keep homemade baby food in a covered container for one or two days in the refrigerator or three to four months in the freezer with a label and date. Small portions are ideal because any food that was served, but not eaten, must be thrown out. Bacteria thrive in the mouth, so if a spoon goes into the baby's mouth and then touches the food, that food cannot be saved.
It's Fine To Buy Store-Bought Baby Food Too
Commercial baby foods are nutritious options for feeding baby, too. Today's commercial baby foods provide balance and variety with carefully controlled and consistent nutrient content, so don’t worry if you supplement your baby’s diet with commercial baby foods. Be sure to talk to your baby's health care provider about the foods and potential supplements that are best for your baby.