I must be crazy. I’ve been making Mila’s food from the start. I’ve mentioned to people that I have spent 5 plus hours on my feet in the kitchen peeling, chopping, cubing and pureeing. They swore that it would be my last time – I wouldn’t again make baby food and instead resort to purchasing store-made and packaged baby delights. They were wrong.
An apple peeler/corer makes this task so much easier.
I had a get-together one night and someone reached into my freezer to grab ice cubes. She turned around and exclaimed, “Oh my goodness! You make your own food? You are my hero”. I’m really not. It really isn’t hard and doesn’t take much time if you know what you are doing, (it took me a while to realize what worked, what didn’t and what was comfortable for me).
So, if you’re considering making your own baby food, here are my tips. First, check the internet and with your doctor. It’s amazing how much information is out there, (and even more amazing how much is conflicting). I’ve found that “Wholesome Homemade Baby Food” is the best when looking for “how-tos”, advice and information. I took a print-out of the month-by-month recommendations to my doctor and he said the only thing he would wait on was anything dairy, (wait a year to avoid allergies). Mila has done great and I have nothing to complain about!
There is conflicting information on what baby’s first foods should be. Mila had summer (yellow) squash as one of her first foods, even though the website above didn’t recommend it. I instead found that information on BabyCenter.com, and she did perfectly fine. It’s funny how resilient a baby can be — trial and error happen all the time and sometime you just have to try.
Buy ice-cube trays. The little cups didn’t help so much (unless I had left-over puree that wouldn’t fit into another tray). It was difficult figuring out how much was in the cup and then as the food would freeze, the lid would pop open. The tiny little baby food maker the cups came with didn’t work well for big chores either.
Ice cube trays are amazing! They cost a dollar (or less) a piece, you fill them with the pureed food, cover and freeze, (no greasing). When they’re frozen through, you crack them, put them in a Ziploc bag and when you’re ready, you can measure what you’re giving your baby EASILY. There’s no guessing.
*Tip: To figure out how many ounces each of my cubes were, I filled a cube with water then put it in a measuring cup. What I found was that my first set of trays was an ounce each. (My second set was about an ounce and a half.)
*Tip: Let thick items, like sweet potatoes, defrost on your counter for a couple of minutes before you crack the tray. I was impatient, (or unknowing) and broke a couple trays trying to get my cubes out.
Processor and steamer: money well spent.
If you’re serious, buy a food processor. I started with the $20 baby food maker and trays from Babies R Us. I didn’t want to invest because I didn’t know what I was doing or how long I would be doing it. I learned fast that I needed a larger machine — one with dual blades. Do your research and find what works best for you. I purchased a Black and Decker 10 cup food processor (above) for less than $40 at Wal-mart, (see, it’s really not expensive). I wanted to make food in bulk (because babies really go through food fast) and this (versus the 8 cup version) stated that it was a puree machine, not just a food processor. I love it!
Bake, Steam and/or Puree. I’ve found that it’s easier and cleaner to steam sweet potatoes. I baked them once, the way my mom baked them for dinner when I was a kid: wrapped in aluminum foil. I found that I was constantly fishing out tiny pieces of foil when feeding Mila. Skip this hassle and just peel and cube raw sweet potatoes and throw them in to steam.
Not everything needs to be cooked. I’ve found that ripe pears, bananas and avocados don’t need anything but to be peeled. In fact, the banana and avocado only need to be mashed with a fork, so you don’t need to pull out the food processor.
Steamers save time. I purchased a steamer at LTD Commodities for under $12. It plugs in and holds several cups of chopped fruits and veggies. While one batch is steaming away, I have another either in the processor or being prepared for the steamer.
Butternut squash. The only thing I need to bake anymore, (everything else is steamed).
Take an hour a week to stock up. I’ve learned to break up the work of baby food making. Instead of cramming it all into a multiple-hour session on a Sunday, I’ll take one evening during the week to peel and cut up what I want to steam. The next evening, I’ll stream, puree and put into ice cube trays. It takes 20 minutes a day — if that!
*Tip: I’ve found that the press and seal plastic wrap works best for covering the ice cube trays. You don’t have to worry about the wrap not clinging to the plastic.
Freezing: Depending on where you’re freezing (in your refrigerator’s freezer or a deep freezer), I’ve found that a general rule of thumb is that your baby food will last up to three months. The older Mila gets, the more she is eating. I can’t keep it in the freezer longer than a couple of weeks, so this has become a non-issue for me.
Preparing. I’ve purchased take and toss bowls that I use for just about everything food related, (puffs, Cheerios, meals, etc). Depending on how much Mila is eating, I place a few cubes in the bowl and put it in the microwave to defrost for anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes on 50% power. Half way through, I’ll mix up the contents, breakup any frozen pieces and continue defrosting. This has worked great.
*Tip: Get the soft baby spoons that turn white when the food is too hot. This will help you determine easily when the food is ready for your baby’s mouth.
Don’t throw away what she doesn’t at first like. Mila did not like peas at all when we started. Because I figure I can freeze this for up to three months, I just kept trying. I would wait a few days and try again. Eventually, I was given the OK by the doctor and started combining foods. Yup, I tricked Mila into liking peas by adding it with sweet potatoes or butternut squash.
*Tip: When you can combine foods, thin things like peas and sweet potatoes not with water, but with other fruits and veggies. I use apples or squash to thin peas. On the flip-side, I use rice cereal or baby oatmeal to thicken the thin foods like peaches, apples and zucchini.
Fresh or Frozen? I mostly use fresh fruits and vegetables. Peas are one thing that I buy frozen because it’s just easier to find. I’ve even steamed these and given them to Mila whole — she loves it!
Advanced Feeding. As Mila has gotten older and obtained more teeth, I’ve read that she can have chunkier food that can be chewed. In order to provide this with my homemade food, I just leave the skins on fruits like nectarines and apples. Considering most of the nutrients in fruits and veggies are in the skins, I always wondered how much she was really getting when everything was peeled. You just need to make sure that the skins are cut up enough or pull out the ones that are too large before feeding your baby. Be cautious, you don’t want her to choke.
When your doctor recommends, you can add spices to your baby’s food. Cinnamon is good with apples, for example. There are plenty of baby food recipe books out there, so you can get creative and have fun cooking for your baby at any stage.
UPDATE: I’ve been working on this post for a while now, (I believe my photos are actually from March). I can say that I’m still making food for Mila, (she’s more than 11 months old now) and I enjoy it. The only processed food I purchase is meat and that’s not that often. Now that Mila has 4 teeth and can chew and bite, most of her meats come off of my plate. If you’re thinking of starting this project, please check out the links I’ve included and good luck!