Making your own baby food. Does that sound intimidating?
It did to me when I was a new mom with a baby that was only a few months old. But I tried it, and quickly realized just how easy it actually is. Way easier than making food for adults!
After all, you're generally working with short ingredient lists (maybe 1 or 2 when you first start, adding a few more when babies get older).
Contrary to what baby stores would like you to believe, you don't really need much special equipment either. At least not anything different than what you probably already have in your kitchen.
There are just a few important things to keep in mind when you make baby food to keep baby safe. So lets go ahead and learn How to Make Your Own Baby Food!
Yes, making your own baby food takes more time than buying some packages of baby food at the store and opening them up.
Don't get me wrong - there is nothing wrong with store-bought baby food. It is highly regulated, and perfectly safe and healthy for your baby to eat. And convenient too. In fact, I regularly keep some on hand for when I'm traveling or feeding my baby in a restaurant.
But that convenience comes at a cost - it will cost more money than making your own, and create more packaging waste too. Making your own baby food is cheaper and cuts down on garbage entering landfills.
Plus it often tastes better than store-bought, and you can be absolutely sure of what your baby is eating (except of course when he picks up random bits off the carpet - you're on your own there).
The most important thing to remember when you start making baby food is food safety. After all, babies' immune systems are not as strong as ours, so they are at an increased risk of developing food borne illness.
No need to be afraid though. It just means we have to be a little more conscious of hygiene and cleanliness (shouldn't we always?)
- Wash hands with soap and water before starting to prepare baby food or feed baby
- Make sure all dishes and kitchen tools are cleaned in the dishwasher, or cleaned with hot water and dish soap
- Wash all fruits and vegetables in running water BEFORE peeling them
- Scrub the outside of winter squash or melon with hot water and dish soap before cutting
- Ensure that any meat is fully cooked. Use a meat thermometer if appropriate.
- Save uneaten (untouched with a spoon) portions of baby food in sealed containers in the fridge for up to 2 days, or freeze
- Do NOT save leftover food that has been touched with a spoon that baby (or anyone else) has used
What Supplies Do I Need?
- Food: Start with single ingredient baby foods. This could be any vegetable, fruit, grain or meat. Use plain foods that don't have any flavorings added to them.
- Cookware: For purees, I find it easiest to use a "wet" cooking method. This could include boiling, steaming, or microwaving with a bit of water. Roasting is great for later on when babies are starting to eat finger food. For steaming or boiling, you'll need a small saucepan (and a steamer if you go that route). For microwaving, you'll need a microwave safe dish or measuring cup.
- To puree: You don't need a Baby Bullet. Use what you already have. A regular blender, food processor or immersion blender all work well. I LOVE my immersion blender because it's easier to make small portions of food, and makes for minimal dishwashing.
First things first - if you're looking for specific baby food recipes, you're not going to find them here.
What I am going to give you is a general guideline of how to prepare foods for babies to eat, not a specific list of ingredients.
Baby food can be easily customized - you can use any ingredient or ingredients you want to suit your preferences and your baby's needs. You can make the baby food thinner or thicker, smoother or chunkier depending on your baby's abilities.
Because of this, and because every ingredient that you use has a variable water content, I can't give you a set formula (ie use this much water to cook this much food). It's easier to do it by look/feel and alter as needed as you go along.
Microwave Directions for Vegetables and fruits:
- Wash vegetable or fruit well. Peel fruits like apples or pears and vegetables like carrots, parsnips and sweet potatoes. Cut into ½" chunks. Or skip this step and use frozen vegetables. Place cut up food into a microwave safe dish or measuring cup. For drier/starchier vegetables like carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes or squash, add enough water to just cover. For juicier fruits, you only need to add a couple tablespoons of water.
- Microwave on high for 2-4 minutes. Go for the longer end of the range for vegetables and the shorter end of the range for softer fruits. If you're cooking more than about a cup at a time, you may need to cook it longer. The food is done when it is soft all the way through.
- Cool food slightly, to make it easier to handle. Drain and reserve liquid. Transfer food to blender or food processor, or use immersion blender to puree. Add reserved cooking liquid as necessary to thin puree. If your baby is new to solids, start with a fairly thin puree with minimal chunks (see photo of plum puree). If baby has already mastered thin purees, you can go chunkier (see photo of corn puree). (Tip: don't puree potatoes - they will get gluey. Instead cook completely and mash with a fork, potato masher, ricer or electric beaters as if you were making regular mashed potatoes).
Directions for meats:
Choose leaner cuts of meat that have skin and bones removed. Fully cook meat, judging doneness with an instant-read thermometer. Allow meat to cool. Cut into small pieces (use ground meat to skip this step) and transfer to a blender, food processor, or container to use an immersion blender. Puree meat, adding water as needed to adjust consistency. Fish can be cooked completely, and flaked/mashed with a fork to desired consistency. Ensure to check for bones before feeding.
Directions for grains:
Cook grain (rice, quinoa, oats, wheatberries, barley, freekeh, etc.) according to directions on the package, adding extra water if desired for a softer/mushier texture. You can either feed this to baby as is, or puree, adjusting consistency with water, breastmilk or formula as needed.
- Don't make baby food in bulk! I cannot stress this enough. Babies don't eat very much, and they don't need thin, single ingredient purees for very long. They will quickly progress to chunkier, mixed ingredient foods. So don't spend an entire afternoon filling your freezer with baby food, and keep portions small when you do make it. A single medium piece of fruit will make 2-4 baby sized servings.
- Freeze single sized portions in ice cube trays. Just cover with plastic and foil or store inside a freezer bag. Then just pop out single cubes to thaw for a baby's meal. Or you can buy freezer friendly storage trays that are made for baby food. Again, I prefer to skip the single use, specialty items.
- If your puree turns out too thin, thicken it with store bought baby cereal (eg. "pablum"). Just sprinkle in a small amount and stir, adding more as needed.
- Mix strong tasting ingredients, or those that are harder to puree (like berries) with milder tasting fruits like apples or pears.
- For super fast baby food, use avocado or banana - they don't need to be cooked. Just mash with a fork and feed to baby.