Once a baby is ready to eat solids, parents and caregivers can save money and ensure optimal nutrition by making baby food at home.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that parents and caregivers avoid giving babies food until they are about 6 months old and show signs of readiness, including sitting mostly on their own and having good head control.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is not necessary to introduce solids in a specific order. Instead, the focus should be on choosing foods that are easy to puree.
The following tips are important when preparing to feed a baby with homemade food:
- Introduce new foods every 3 to 5 days: This method makes it easier to identify the source if a child has an allergic reaction to a particular food type.
- Acceptance can take time: Infants may need to try a new food many times and in many forms before they accept it. Keep offering a wide variety of new foods but do not force an infant to eat anything that they do not want.
- The right consistency depends on the baby’s age: Very young babies who are new to solids need thinner foods, which people can prepare by adding extra water, milk, or broth. As a baby grows and begins chewing, they can eat thicker foods.
- Avoid honey and additives: It is important not to add honey to baby food, as it can carry botulism. Baby food should also not contain added sugar or other sweeteners.
Proper food preparation is important to minimize health risks.
When making homemade baby food:
- thoroughly wash the hands, and then wash the food
- peel fruits and vegetables and remove pits, seeds, and any other parts that the baby should not eat
- use a blender or baby food maker to blend the food to the right consistency
- always thoroughly cook meat, and only provide meat in the form of a puree
After preparing the food, parents and caregivers should store it in the refrigerator. Most foods only last a few days in the refrigerator, so it is advisable to smell and taste them before feeding them to a baby.
Another option for pureed foods is to freeze them in an ice cube tray and reheat them at a later date.
Simple purees use just one ingredient. Introducing these purees makes it easier to assess whether a baby likes a new food and how their body reacts to it.
People can try pureeing fresh fruits and vegetables, such as:
If a baby tolerates a single food, it is safe to combine it with other foods. It is fine to introduce combinations of foods early. The only reason not to combine foods straight away is that it makes it more difficult to check for sensitivities and allergies.
Some parents and caregivers like to blend sweeter foods, such as apples, with more complex or bitter flavors, including spinach. While this is a good way to give a baby varied nutrition, there is no need to mask one flavor with another. Instead, offering a particular food many times may increase the likelihood that a baby will like and eat it.
Some combinations that many babies like include:
- apple and spinach
- meats, such as ground beef or chicken, with carrots, peas, or other vegetables
- banana and mango
- squash and peach
- apple and cauliflower
- broccoli and sweet potato
- squash and sweet potato
- pear and peach
- sweet potato and banana
Some babies enjoy frozen baby food, which people can make by freezing the food and putting it in a frozen food feeder. Readily available at many stores or online, these feeders resemble popsicles, and they ooze out small quantities of food as the baby sucks on it. This option can be especially helpful for teething babies with sore mouths.
Some parents and caregivers opt for an approach called baby-led weaning, in which they give babies table food from the beginning. Others introduce table food only after purees.
Some good table foods to start with include:
- well-cooked eggs, for example, small pieces of hard-boiled or scrambled eggs
- soft foods, such as cooked mashed potato or sweet potato
- portions of soft fruits, such as ripe mango or banana
- small, thin pieces of soft meats
- small slices of meat substitutes, such as tofu, as long as they do not contain lots of added salt
Under 1 year of age, the primary purpose of solids is to offer supplemental nutrition and get babies accustomed to new foods. Formula or breast milk should still be the primary source of nutrition. Parents and caregivers can try feeding the baby solids after a bottle or breastfeeding session.
- Juice does not offer any nutritional value over that of fruits and vegetables.
- Between 6 and 8 months, give 4–6 tablespoons (tbsp) per day of iron-fortified infant cereal. Offer 3–4 tbsp each of fruits and vegetables and 1–2 tbsp of proteins, such as meat or beans.
- Offer a gradually increasing quantity of solids. By 8–12 months, babies should get 1–3 tbsp of protein, 4–6 tbsp of iron-fortified cereal, and 3–4 tbsp each of fruits and vegetables.
Homemade baby foods may make it easier for parents and caregivers to offer a wide variety of foods affordably. However, store-bought foods are safe, and people can mix homemade and premade foods as it suits them.
Parents and caregivers who have children with allergies or specific nutritional needs should consult a pediatrician before making homemade baby food.