Yes, you may find several benefits to feeding your baby homemade foods. It can be less expensive than store bought, for example. It can let your child enjoy baby-friendly versions of foods they see the rest of the family eating. And it may be easier than you think. All you need is a blender, food processor, or even a hand-held mixer.
Keep these tips in mind to ensure homemade food is nutritious and safe for your baby:
When is my child ready to try baby food?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months. Before your child
starts solid foods, be sure they are developmentally ready. They should be able to sit in a highchair or feeding seat with good head control, for example, and should show interest in food, opening their mouth on their own. Your pediatrician can help guide you through getting started.
What's the best way to get started making my own baby food?
First, think about foods are already on your menu. There's probably no need to make a special item. After introducing individual foods, you may want to try combinations. Don't worry too much about ratios—there is no magic formula. And try not to overthink which solids and how much of each to give your baby. (Remember that breastmilk or infant formula still provides the vast majority of calories and nutrients for infants under age 1.)
Instead, consider balancing several types of foods to offer different nutrients. You may find that your baby only eats a few bites of something new, so plan to store leftovers for later. Some foods may need to be offered 8-10 times before an infant or toddler eats them well.
Balance, moderation & variety
The latest USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage parents to “make every bite count" by having every food in an infant's diet support nutrition and growth needs. Think of each bite as a chance for your child to explore the color, taste, and texture of a nutritious food.
When offering your baby new foods, try to include fruits and vegetables in each color of the rainbow. Also offer good sources of protein (such as beans, chicken, fish, and yogurt), fat, and iron (for example, iron-fortified oat cereal or meats). Serving a variety of foods also is key to helping lower the risk of toxic element exposure for your baby. (See Heavy Metals in Baby Food.)
Get those allergen foods in!
Early exposure to common
food allergy culprits, such as egg, soy, gluten, dairy,
nuts and fish, can lower the risk of babies developing allergies to them. Try mixing a small amount of peanut butter with oatmeal cereal, for example, or offer bites of scrambled egg. You can also introduce yogurt or shredded cheese once your baby is eating solids, along with small bites of a well-cooked white fish like tilapia or cod. If your child has severe
eczema or an egg allergy, be sure to discuss introduction of these foods with your pediatrician.
What should I avoid?
Do not feed infants under age 1 honey, since it can contain bacteria that could make them sick. Also beware of foods that may be a
choking hazard, such as nuts or raw carrots. You can offer your baby
water with meals, but it is best to avoid all other beverages except breastmilk or formula. Homemade foods should not replace breast milk or infant formula, and remember that you should
not make infant formula at home. (See
Is Homemade Baby Formula Safe?)
Storing homemade baby food
Some parents like to prep in advance by cooking in batches and storing the pre-made baby food. This can make life easier during busy days. Consider freezing the leftovers to use another time. After cooking, an ice cube tray is a wonderful way to freeze leftover food. Each cube is about 1 oz of food, and you can transfer to a zipped plastic bag or other storage container after freezing. Be sure to label the type of food and the date. Plan to eat frozen baby food within 3 months by reheating on the stove or in the microwave.
What about baby-led weaning?
Some families choose to skip pureed foods and offer babies small bites of regular table foods, typically without utensils. This allows infants who reject purees or prefer texture to feed themselves, even choosing what and how much they eat.
It's a good idea to talk with your pediatrician before starting. Your child should show signs of general developmental readiness for solids, plus the ability to bring their hands to their mouth. Begin with small bites of soft or mashed foods first, such as baked sweet potato, scrambled egg, small pieces of banana or ripe mango, or green peas. Remember to avoid raw vegetables, nuts and seeds, popcorn, whole grapes, and other foods that may increase choking risk.
What's right for your family may not be the same as for your friends, so try to avoid comparisons. All families are different and strive to do their best. Making homemade baby food is a great option, but don't feel badly if you need to use store-bought food, as well. Family size, budget, and schedule all contribute to these decisions. Just remember to offer a variety of foods to your baby, and make every bite count!