Its probably a surprise to no one that I’ve been making my own baby food since Lillian started eating solids. I love being able to prepare foods fresh for her. There is a certain peace of mind in knowing exactly what she’s eating, that its fresh and that its wholesome. Its also relatively easy to prepare — I say relatively because if you compare this to popping open a jar, its certainly more involved. But to me its worth the effort.
A couple of tips and considerations that might be helpful for anyone embarking on their own homemade baby food adventure:
- Stock your freezer. Consider purchasing tons of frozen organic (if that’s your persuasion) veggies when they’re on sale. Since the veggies are already cleaned and chopped, it doesn’t take much extra effort to throw some frozen peas or chunks of butternut squash into a pot to steam for a few minutes. Also, those bags of fresh, organic “baby” carrots are a huge time saver.
- Make it puree-easy. You might want to consider getting a baby food making “system.” I have a Baby Bullet food chopper for making purees. I say might because its certainly not vital. There’s nothing so special about the Bullet versus other baby food systems or, quite frankly, a blender and some ice cube trays. But I like that I can leave it sitting in one tiny spot on my countertop and have it at my fingertips, plus its super easy to clean. Its very convenient to quickly blend something up without making a total wreck out of the kitchen. Mine didn’t come with the “Free Turbo Steamer” advertised on their website. Maybe that would make it even more convenient. Regardless, its nice to be able to puree things quickly and I am partial to the teensy, tiny little food storage jars with smiley faces on them 🙂
- Consider short-order cooking. Instead of making large batches of food at the start of the week like most of the books suggest, I actually find it easier to make Lilly’s food to-order using whatever ingredients I’ll be using to make my own dinner. This way, if Lillian isn’t a fan of a new food (she’s already got a particular palate), I’m not stuck with 6 more containers of green beans in the fridge. The food we eat is healthy enough that its usually pretty easy to bake an extra sweet potato or set aside some steamed carrots or broccoli or bake an extra piece of chicken or whatever, then blend hers up.
- Don’t fear the flavor! Don’t be surprised if your baby quickly advances beyond bland, plain steamed veggies. Lillian found these interesting for about 2 weeks. Then all of a sudden she was like “Meh.” I was a little panicked that I was going to have a food diva that would only eat three vegetables for the rest of her life but it turns out I think she was just ready for more flavor. My new rule of thumb is the same one I learned in culinary school: “Taste, Taste, Taste.” If it tastes good to me, I feel more confident she might enjoy it too. Last week I ended up making her some tilapia poached with herbs and spices. I then pureed that with a pat of butter, a few shreds of cheese, a scallion, a steamed potato and some green beans. I tasted it and it was darned good. She agreed and gobbled it right up.
- Embrace the mess. At first I was very good about spoon feeding her myself and scraping all the stray chunks off of her chin and what not. But after a few weeks, Lillian was done with all that. She literally started ripping the spoon out of my hand and wouldn’t allow it in her mouth unless she was in charge. After some trial-and-error we came to a truce. I load the food on the spoon, then hand it to her to place in her mouth. Its a messier process but she’s a happier baby so thats fine with me.
- Go beyond “baby food”. At seven months, traditional baby food purees are just part of Lillian’s diet. Many of my friends and fellow bloggers have embraced Baby Led Weaning (basically, skipping pureed food completely and instead giving babies 6 mo and up finger foods from the very start). Although I’d heard positive things, we didn’t end up going that route completely. That said, since Lillian quickly took an interest in feeding herself we introduced finger foods earlier than is typically recommended. She loves orange segments, well-steamed carrots, broccoli florets, sticks of banana, etc. I watch her very closely because she doesn’t have any teeth (but her gums are awfully powerful!) and she does gag occasionally, which completely freaks me out. But she seems to love doing things on her own and I figure she has to learn eventually, so as long as she’s well supervised, why not?
- Follow your own path. As you can see, I sort of make up my own rules as I go along. We kind of follow the doctor and kind of follow the books…but I mostly follow Lillian. She’s got her opinions. I’m sure thats the same for every baby. ; ) Along those same lines…I know that for allergy reasons you’re supposed to wait three days between each and every new food but after the first couple of weeks I gave up on this. I’m probably a bad mom, but she hasn’t had a reaction to anything yet so unless its a major allergen risk (nuts, shellfish…stuff that we’re not introducing at all yet), I’ve relaxed a little bit on this rule. She seems fine so far.