Time has flown, and in just a few more weeks, our sweet Elijah will be halfway to his first birthday. What a joy this boy is with his wide grin and bright eyes and snuggly disposition. Markedly different from his reserved sister, he is tenacious, active, and…hungry. We started solid food as a trial last week, and it was instantly a hit. The first day he ate half a cup of pureed sweet potatoes, then just a few days later, an entire mashed banana was consumed in a single sitting. With Eowyn, we relied heavily on store-bought baby food, mostly because (a) I didn’t have the bandwidth to make my own at the time, and (b) whenever I did make a batch, she rejected the bulk of it. Since all preliminary signs seem to indicate that Elijah is not nearly as picky, I decided to take the risk and make some purees to keep on hand.
Before I share the details, I’d like to direct a comment to all the other moms reading this. After my daughter was born, there were so many expectations that I placed on myself concerning what it meant to be a good mother, and sadly, I was often focused on the wrong things. Natural childbirth, exclusive breastfeeding, homemade baby food – these were my ideals, and when the struggles came that made these goals exceedingly difficult to achieve, feelings of failure and guilt consumed me. I cared too much about trivial matters when I should have been delighting in my precious baby girl. If you want to make your own baby food, I hope these ideas are helpful to you. You’ll save money and have the assurance of knowing exactly what you are giving your baby. Conversely, if you are stressed, tired, and overworked, please don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself to do it all. There are many excellent options for store-bought baby food, and I’ve learned the hard way that you have to do what’s best for everyone (including mom) if you want a thriving family.
The great thing about making your own baby food, should you choose to do so, is that it’s quite straightforward. Steam some produce, puree it with the cooking liquid, then place it in the freezer until it’s needed. I’m not completely comfortable with the idea of processed infant cereals, so I’ve also added cooked grains such a oats, quinoa, and brown rice to a few of the batches so that those elements are included in Elijah’s diet. In addition to selecting nutritious ingredients, here are some of the guidelines that I’ve found helpful thus far:
- While I prefer to cook my own vegetables just until crisp tender, it is important that the baby food ingredients are fully cooked (but not overcooked). If they are underdone, it could be more challenging to achieve the silky texture that many infants prefer.
- Steaming is convenient for me, but it’s not the only way to go. Roasting and boiling are also good options, though I would recommend using as little water as possible if you choose to boil. Incorporating the cooking liquid into the puree will help restore any nutrition that leeched into the water while boiling or steaming.
- I have tried to achieve appealing flavor combinations by pairing complementary elements, such as bananas with green beans and sweet potatoes with brown rice. In no instance have I added salt, sugar, or oil.
- A high-powered blender is useful in achieving a fine texture; however, a food processor or regular blender should also work. To my blender (I use a VitaMix), I added the cooked ingredients, poured in the amount of liquid I estimated would be needed, then blended on low for 30 seconds to a minute, adding more water as necessary until the mixture was smooth and pourable. Next, I increased the speed to high and let it run for an additional minute.
Once the purees have been prepared, there are a number of storage options. If the food is likely to be eaten within a few days, it is sufficient to place it in a sealed container in the refrigerator. When the baby needs to eat, simply portion the desired quantity into a separate dish for serving. For longer term storage, the food can be frozen in ice cube trays, mason jars, or freezer bags. I’ve experimented with each of these, and I find that I prefer the freezer bag method. Instead of filling them to their maximum capacity, I’ve chosen to place 1-2 cups of baby food in each quart size bag, laying them flat to freeze. When I need to use them, I can either place them in the refrigerator overnight to thaw (if I’m on top of things and am planning ahead), or I can set the bag in warm water in the kitchen sink. To serve, I snip off one of the corners with kitchen shears and squeeze the contents into a bowl. Elijah’s diet is voracious enough that he could probably go through one bag every day or two, but this method may not be preferred for a child who is eating substantially less.
When it comes to what foods can be used, there is a lot freedom. Here are the combinations I prepared this week, though I’m sure these will evolve and change over time:
- Steamed fresh green beans and raw bananas
- Steamed sweet potatoes (peeled) and brown rice
- Steamed beet roots (peeled) and greens (no stems)
- Steamed apples (peeled), dried raisins, and quinoa
- Steamed carrots (peel on)
- Boiled blueberries and oats
- Raw avocado
There’s no specific ratio that I followed when adding multiple ingredients; I simply eyeballed it, then sampled the mixture to ensure it had a pleasant taste.
If you want to begin making baby food at home and you’d like to learn more, I highly recommend Momtastic’s Wholesome Baby Food. This site provides thorough nutrition information, introduction guidelines, and preparation suggestions for a wide range of ingredients. Consulting with your child’s pediatrician is also advised; the items I’ve mentioned have worked for me, but only you and your care provider can decide what is best for your specific situation.