Making the decision to keep your baby’s diet as free of pesticides, preservatives, sweeteners and coloring agents is an admirable one, though the idea of making your own baby food can be daunting. In truth, the process is quite a bit simpler that it seems on the surface.
Collect Your Supplies
There are entire systems on the market designed specifically to facilitate making and storing baby food. Packaged with a small processor and several cups that seal with screw-on lids, these collections are popular sellers among the new-parent set. However, purchasing one of these systems isn’t an absolute necessity; you can use objects that are probably already in your kitchen.
You’ll need a food processor or blender, clean jars with tight-fitting lids, a rubber spatula, a pot for cooking and a selection of organic fruits, vegetables and legumes. A hand-powered food mill would also do the trick, but tends to be more difficult to clean and time-consuming than an electric blender or food processor. If you do choose to purchase a baby food system, it will come with everything you need to prepare fresh, organic food for your little one except for the fruits and vegetables themselves.
Make Enough to Last
Many parents who make their own organic baby food find that it’s much easier to prepare an entire week’s worth of food in one session, rather than being forced to cook and puree each day. It’s not advised to prepare baby food with the intention of storing it for more than a week unless you plan to use a pressure-canning method, which is a time-consuming and tricky process for inexperienced beginners. You can also pour food into ice cube trays and freeze it, transferring the cubes of pureed food to labeled jars after they’ve frozen solid. Homemade organic baby food preserved by using this method is good for up to one month in the freezer; label it carefully and be sure to date each container.
Assemble Your Ingredients and Get Down to Business
Wash vegetables and fruits thoroughly. Peel and seed if necessary, then roughly chop into chunks to reduce cooking times. If you plan to include meats, remove all skin and trim any fat. Cook fruits and vegetables until they reach a soft, tender consistency. All meat should be completely well-done; red meats should have absolutely no remaining pinkness. Don’t add any sweetener, salt or spices, especially honey, as babies under one year of age could contract botulism from ingesting honey, even if it’s used in baked or processed food. Even pasteurized honey may contain botulinum spores that can lead to severe health complications for infants. Eggs, tomatoes and nuts should also be avoided during baby’s first year, as they are common food allergens. Reactions can be quite severe in infants, so parents are advised to wait until their child is a full year old before introducing these foods.
When the food has cooled, use your blender or food processor to puree it; the texture should depend upon your baby’s age and dietary habits. During the first few weeks of feeding your baby table food, mixing a bit of breast milk or formula with the vegetables and fruits will cause it to take on a thinner, more manageable consistency with familiar flavors. As your infant becomes more accustomed to table food, liquid can be gradually reduced and the texture of food can be chunkier. You can also use water or liquid reserved from the cooking process to dilute the consistency of thick baby food.
Portion only as much food as you think your baby will eat in one sitting, and do not reserve “left over” food for later feedings. It’s best to allow food to cool to room temperature before serving it, as Baby’s lips and mouth are very sensitive to heat. The best and safest method of thawing frozen food is to allow the mixture to thaw naturally; however, it may be necessary to use a microwave from time to time. Should you choose this method, heat each cube of food for ten seconds before stirring thoroughly. Repeat this process, but only until food is just thawed and close to room temperature. Careful stirring and testing eliminates “hot pockets” of food, which are a common result of uneven heating in microwave ovens. Be sure to carefully sterilize containers for storage, and adhere to safe food-handling practices; your baby’s immune system is far more fragile than your own, placing her at a much higher risk for food-borne illnesses.