An Overview of Homemade Baby Food

Baby messily eating food by himself

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When your baby is ready for solids—usually somewhere around six months old—you may want to consider making your own baby food. Homemade baby food can be a great choice to help you save money and make sure your baby is getting all the nutrition they need.

Is Your Baby Ready for Solid Food?

Although every baby will be ready for solids at different times, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends not introducing any food besides breast milk or formula before six months of age. Formula-fed babies are at more risk for the introduction of solid food earlier than the AAP recommendations, as are infants who are perceived to be "fussy." Early solid food introduction is still being studied in terms of potential associations with health effects in infancy and later in life. The AAP has several suggestions about introducing your baby to solid foods:

  • Evidence shows that you may need to introduce a food multiple times before your baby accepts it. Remember that this is the first time your baby is experiencing many of these flavors and textures, and they may need several attempts to respond in an accepting way. It may take a few tries (sometimes 10 to 15) before they really learn to like the taste of some of the same foods that you eat regularly. Just by eating with your baby, though, you are setting them up to be more likely to eat the foods you eat.
  • There is no evidence that introducing fruit before vegetables will make your baby more likely to eat sweet foods. Babies are designed to prefer sweet flavors, which helps attract them to mother's milk. Instead of giving your baby either fruit or vegetables, try offering both. If you're using purees, you can use mixtures of fruit and vegetables. If you're using baby-led feeding, you can offer your baby developmentally safe fruits and vegetables together.
  • If you are using purees and you can't make your own baby food, it's OK! There are plenty of great pre-made baby foods available at your local grocery store. Focus on options without added sugar and that minimize added sodium but maximize flavor with interesting food combinations and/or spices. If you’re using baby-led feeding, then baby will be eating developmentally appropriate versions of the same thing you and your family eat.
  • Your baby will probably eat a lot less than you think. A new eater may only eat as little as one to two tablespoons of a new food. Older babies will only need three to four tablespoons. Intake will vary if baby is teething or going through a period of very rapid growth. This is normal.

What's a Good First Food?

While infant cereal is commonly seen as the first food for babies, you don't have to limit your baby to eating infant cereal as a first food. Consider introducing your baby to whatever foods you normally eat at home.

Some great first baby food options include soft fruits that can be easily blended, such as bananas and avocados. If you're using the baby-led feeding method, then these softer foods will be cut into developmentally appropriate shapes and sizes.

What About Allergies?

Many parents may worry about introducing their baby to new foods that could have the potential for an allergic reaction. But in general, the AAP does not have any specific restrictions on introducing allergens to your baby, unless your baby is in a high-risk population. In fact, there is some evidence that early introduction of common allergens, such as peanut products, may actually have a protective effect on babies.

If you have a family history of allergies, or your baby has mild to moderate eczema, you may want to talk to your pediatrician about a specific food introduction plan to minimize any risk and monitor for allergic reactions. This might mean introduction of certain foods in the doctor's office. Allergic responses could be a rash or hives, or trouble breathing. If you suspect a rash or hives is related to something your baby ate, ask your pediatrician. If your baby develops any trouble breathing, call 911 or go to the emergency room right away.

The Tools You'll Need

If you're using purees, all you really need to make your own baby food is a blender and some containers to hold the food. If you have the money and space, you can invest in a baby food maker, which steams and purees raw foods for you. You can also consider using other common kitchen tools, such as a hand-held blender, a vegetable steamer to cook vegetables, and an ice cube tray to make and freeze baby food cubes. Thaw individual cubes when baby is ready to eat.

If you’re using baby led feeding, having a plate or bowl that suctions to the high chair or table top, utensils that are easy for small hands to hold, and a bib are all very useful.

Recipes to Try

Making your own baby food doesn't have to be intimidating. Try your hand at these simple baby food recipes:

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By Chaunie Brusie, RN
Chaunie Brusie is a registered nurse with experience in long-term, critical care, and obstetrical and pediatric nursing.