Feeding your baby solids is an exciting new step in your child’s development! Eating is a highly social experience, and when your baby is between 4 months old, this is a great time to start modeling mealtime rituals and eating habits. It’s time to offer “big people food.”
While a baby couldn’t care less what table manners are, they still start to comprehend and observe the rituals we display around meal time. Like sitting down three times a day to eat, not throwing food, and watching us use utensils, for example. They will still depend on their bottle or nursing sessions until after a year old, but by 4-6 months it’s time to bust out the highchair and start introducing some yummy purees and baby cereal.
Another added benefit to new foods is that it exposes their taste palate and will help prevent them from being picky eaters in the future. And obviously, it fills their growing bodies with much needed nutrition!
The best way to test where your baby is at developmentally, is to first offer iron fortified rice cereal around 4 months old. If offered on a spoon they will probably roll it around and spit it out. This is the “suck and swallow reflex” all babies have, but in the next few weeks (and by 6 months) they outgrow it and are able to swallow puree. If your baby isn’t swallowing the cereal, then put it in their bottle with their breastmilk or formula until they can begin to accept it on a spoon. Once they are eating baby cereal without any problem, you can start adding in puree. (Starting with cereal also prevents you from putting the effort into making fresh food only to have your baby reject it.)
If you want more information on how to feed your baby, check out this blog post.
Why Moms Chose Homemade Baby Food
More and more moms are choosing to make their baby’s meals at home for a quite a few reasons:
-There are no secret ingredients. You know exactly what your baby is eating.
-You control their sugar intake. If your child is sensitive to sugar then you can offer a higher veggie to sugar ratio.
-Your baby eats the same food the rest of your family eats.
-If your baby has a sensitive tummy, homemade baby food allows you to offer low acidic options.
-It is fresh!
-It can be more cost effective. Organic baby food in glass jars can cost almost $5! Whereas a sweet potato and a half cup of oatmeal can cost less than a dollar.
-Homemade baby food is very easy to make and you only need some basic tools and ingredients.
The best part is that you don’t need an expensive baby food maker. The equipment you need to make baby food with are things you probably already have around the house.
-A Blender (or an immersion blender or a food processor.)
-Storage Containers (ice tray, glass jars, or any BPA free plastic bag.)
-Liquid (formula, water, breastmilk)
-Spoons and Bowls (for mixing)
What Foods Should I Make First?
Before you get carried away with your blender, it is suggested that when offering baby food for the first time you should give your baby single ingredient foods to rule out any allergies or sensitivities. If you mix baby food and your baby has a reaction, you won’t know which food is the culprit!
Once you know your baby isn’t sensitive to any single ingredients, you can begin to get creative and mix your bananas with your avocados, or make a pumpkin banana puree, for example. If a food is too tart or too bland, feel free to mix them for diverse textures and two dimensional flavors. The sky's the limit on how creative you can be! And the more diverse your baby is now in their taste plate, the better their nutrition will be!
Below are nine, Stage 1 purees you can make at home to start your baby in the wonderful new world of “big people” food.
Stage 1 means that it is a single ingredient, flat baby food. Around 7-8 months, most babies are ready for stage 2 baby food, which means instead of a single ingredient puree, you can allow soft chunks, more diverse texture, and include more ingredients. You will know when your baby is ready for stage 2!
Use fresh lemon juice to use as a natural preservative to keep avocado from discoloring (and it adds a little extra flavor) Avocado is rich in fats and protein, so it’s a great food to offer if your baby is a little underweight!
Is your baby teething early? Puree up some frozen peaches to make a smooth and tasty baby “ice cream” for those sore gums.
Use a bib and have wipes close by! Blueberry puree is very messy (and it will stain clothes!) But is it ever oh-so-nutritious! Blueberry puree will thicken in the fridge, so if it’s too liquidy at first, let it “gel” in the back of the fridge for a while.
With all it’s natural sugar, banana is a great mixer to add flavor to veggies that would otherwise be flat on their own.
Whipped Peanut Butter (ask your pediatrician about peanut allergies before you offer this one.)
One of the most frustrating things about store bought baby food is that it is often very low in protein, and the canned meats are neither tasty or fresh! However, peanut butter is a great way to sneak in some protein! By introducing peanut butter early, your child will be more likely to accept it later and continue to enjoy this nutrient rich food throughout childhood (peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are essential to being a kid, right?) Simply blend it until it is whipped into a cloud-like consistency. You can also add bananas to make it a sweeter treat!
Chickpeas (or black beans, pinto, white, or even split pea!)
Beans are a great way to get even more protein into your baby’s diet! If it needs more flavor add some bone broth instead of breastmilk/formula.
This fruit is high in Vitamin C and fiber. It is also known to aid digestion, helps in clearing out toxins, and protects against eye problems!
Some babies are sensitive to strawberries and can break out in a rash, but they usually outgrow this as time passes. Be sure to monitor your child when eating strawberries for the first time. But if your child can eat them, strawberries are high in Vitamin C, which is an important vitamin for immune health.
While pineapple can be on the tart side, it is a nutritional powerhouse. It carries iron, folate, antioxidants, boosts immunity, and helps with sinuses! This is a phenomenal food to get natural vitamins into your baby.
It’s not only delicious, it’s crazy healthy too! With lots of Vitamin A, fiber, and zinc your growing baby can’t go wrong. If pumpkins are out of season, this is one canned food you can buy on the baking aisle and mix it with freshly whipped peanut butter, banana, or avocado! But if it is autumn and pumpkins are in season, you can bake a whole one in your oven and then blend it into a puree. You can learn how to do it here. This is slightly more time consuming, but the fresher the pumpkin is, the higher it is in nutrients.
Remember to never sweeten baby food with honey, as it can be dangerous for children under one year of age. You can use banana, a little agave nectar, or an ounce of prune or apple juice as a natural sweetener if needed.
Also remember that babies can be highly allergic to eggs, so avoid them until 12-18 months of age, or ask your pediatrician.
How To Blend And Store Baby Food
To make baby food, simply mix one cup of your single ingredient and blend. Add milk (or juice, water, or bone broth) by the tablespoon until you reach your desired consistency. Add to a bowl and you're done!
To store baby food, put it in an airtight container for up to three days! You can also add left over puree in ice cube trays and freeze overnight. Pop them out, put them in plastic baggies and mark the date and the name of food with a marker. They will last up to three months in the freezer. Simply pull one or two out at a time and thaw as needed.
Stage 2 Baby Food Ideas
Stage 2 is usually when parents still offer a puree, but it is courser and resembles solid food. This stage is more exciting because you can begin to add spices like ginger or cinnamon, grains like quinoa, chicken, and more veggies like green beans.
Here are some food combinations to get you inspired and motivated! Remember, all you have to do is add it to the blender and mince with a little broth or milk. However, if your baby can:
-sit up on their own
-has at least one tooth
-can swallow well without rolling their food out
-can pick up food and bring it to their mouth
Then you can chop their food into tiny bites and let them feed themselves (under supervision.) Not only does this teach them coordination, but it also gives them a chance to explore texture and sensory input from their food.