Making your own baby food
What to Know
- Advantages to making your own baby food purees
- Supplies you need to get started
- Cooking methods
Whether you opt to feed your baby foods you exclusively make at home or you provide a combination of both homemade and prepared foods; numerous advantages come from making all or some of your baby’s first pureed foods:
- Greater control over what you feed your baby – you can select and utilize a higher quality and greater variety of ingredients that are not usually available in store-bought baby food.
- Reduce food waste – you’ll be making purees from fruits and vegetables that you’re likely buying anyway for your family
- Money saver! – did you know the price of 2-3 containers of baby food is almost equal to that of 4-6 pears, which can create enough pureed food for 10 or more meals for your baby?
You likely have all the tools you need in your kitchen already, so grab a vegetable peeler, pot, pan, steamer basket, blender or food processor (and the optional food mill, potato masher, strainer and ice cube trays) and let’s get cooking!
Following proper food safety is especially important when cooking for children and especially babies. Babies are more prone to foodborne illness than older children or healthy adults, so always wash your hands, rinse the food items, clean your work area, cook foods to their recommended internal temperatures and avoid cross-contamination.
For more specifics on proper food safety protocols, see Food safety in pregnancy.
You have many cooking options for the purpose of pureeing food for your baby. Each method has pros and cons in terms of ease and nutritional value:
- Steaming: A hugely popular (and easy!) method, steaming allows for minimal nutrient loss and the leftover water can be used as stock for pureeing.
- Boiling or Stewing: Also convenient, however this cooking method results in greater nutrient loss in the surrounding water, so be sure to use the cooking water when you puree.
- Baking or Roasting: Great for making large quantities in the oven. Baked food items retain most of their nutrients and are easily digestible.
- Microwave Cooking: Super easy but only for small quantities, and can lead to uneven cooking.
- Pressure Cooking: May require additional kitchen equipment, but retains the foods’ nutrients because this method uses very little water.
- Grilling: Babies and small children can eat grilled or stir-fried foods. Grilled meats at high temperatures are not recommended.
- Sautéing: Another fast and flavorful option, although the calories and fat from the oil used can add up.
Now, what to make? Fruits, vegetables, grains and meats can all be cooked and pureed into baby food. Here’s how:
- Vegetables: Always cook vegetables before serving to your baby- steaming, roasting or baking are the best methods. Once cooked, softer vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash need only be mashed with a potato masher (or just use a fork!). If the vegetable has thick skin, like green beans or peas, push the cooked food through a strainer or sieve for an easier puree.
- Fruits: Certain fruits, like avocados and bananas or really ripe pears, kiwis and peaches, require no cooking before feeding to your baby. Simply peel and mash them up with a fork. Other harder fruits, like apples, pears and mangos can be baked or steamed to soften them up for a puree. Simply halve your fruit of choice, remove the skin, remove the core, pit or seeds. Place the halved fruit in a shallow baking dish with 1-2 inches of water in a 400 degree oven. If you have an adventurous eater, you can even sprinkle the fruit with ginger, nutmeg or cinnamon! Bake for 20-40 minutes and then allow to cool before pureeing in a blender or dicing for finger food.
- Grains and Cereals: You can make your own baby cereal at home using whole grains such as oatmeal, brown rice or barley. Grind the uncooked grain into a powder using a coffee grinder, food processor or blender. Then cook the powder in water for 15 minutes until you get a thin, soupy consistency. You can also cook the raw grain whole, as you normally would for yourself, and then puree, but this method can sometimes create a pasty consistency.
- Meat: Yes, you can even puree meat for your baby using a food mill or blender. Cook the meat to well-done before pureeing (but avoid luncheon and smoked meats at this stage due to the high salt and additive content).
What to Do
Advance textures slowly based on your baby’s signs of readiness. Start with thinner purees and then move to thicker purees over several weeks and months as your baby’s chewing and swallowing skills becomes more coordinated. Ask a Happy Family Coach for more information or see Introducing solids: First foods and advancing textures and Introducing solids: Different approaches and strategies. Baby-led weaning is another approach where you let baby eat soft finger foods right from the get-go – ask a Happy Family Coach for more information.
- Find the right consistency for your purees – not too thick, not too thin!
- If you need to thicken up your puree for an older baby, try adding baby cereal, yogurt, wheat germ, cottage cheese, mashed banana, scrambled eggs, pureed sweet potato or tofu.
- If you need to thin your puree for a younger baby, try adding reserved cooking water, veggie stock, formula or breastmilk.
Note that food textures can – and often do – change in the freezer. For example, certain fruits and vegetables like blueberries, pears and eggplant retain a lot of water and can become quite runny when thawed, so you may need to tinker with the consistency either before or after freezing. To learn how to properly store, freeze and thaw purees, see Storing your baby food.
Smith, Michelle Annette. “Homemade Baby Food – Make it Safely.” Foodsafety.gov. Date accessed 27 Jan. 2011. Starting Solid Foods. Healthy Children.org. Date accessed 16 Jan. 2018. Frie, James K, Rhona M Hanning, Corinne A Isaak, Daniel Prowse, and Angela C Miller. “Canadian infants’ nutrient intakes from complementary foods during the first year of life.” BMC Pediatr. Volume 10. Issue 43 (2010).