Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Be Good to Baby's Tummy: Try Homemade Baby Food

As parents, we have our own ideas (and probably more than a little bit of friendly advice from others!) about when to start solid foods for baby and what those foods should be. I have heard advice and have read articles claiming that any time between 4 months and a full year is the right time to start.

If you feel that jarred baby food is an added expense you would rather not deal with, try making your own baby food. Whenever you decide that it is time to start fruits and vegetables, you will find the first controversy. Half of the so-called experts suggest starting with fruits and yes, the other half swears that vegetables should be the first solid food. The problem is that each argument has points that make perfect sense.

Getting to the nitty gritty here, you can puree many of the vegetables for baby that the rest of the family is having for dinner. There are a few things that won't work so well, but most vegetables can be pureed just fine. One that comes to mind that would not be a very good choice is corn because it would be difficult to puree and shouldn't be given to babies anyhow. Things like snow peas with tougher shells would also not be a good choice for one of the first vegetables.

If they are thoroughly cooked, some good choices for pureeing include peas, green beans, carrots, and squash. There will be some fruits and vegetables that are simply easier to buy than to make homemade and that's fine, too. There is one thing to remember when you start solids, whether buying or home pureeing; many experts are now saying that red beets, spinach, citrus fruits, and a handful of other things should not be given to a baby under a year or 18 months old. Be sure to do your homework!

When it comes to fruit, try bananas; apples (make sure to cook them soft!); berries without seeds; and so on. In this category, you may want to check the jarred baby food section for any fruits that you may not be able to find locally. This will give the baby a wide range of new tastes and nutrients.

Before you start chopping, cooking, and then pureeing in a blender or food processor, be sure to clean the fruits and vegetables completely. Just because something is labeled "organic" doesn't mean that it won't have to be washed.

When you are feeding solids to baby, most baby doctors will recommend introducing a new food no more often than every few days. That will allow you to make sure there are no food allergies.

Any time that you are making homemade baby food, especially for a young baby not yet with teeth and in toddler stage, be sure to check that the blender or food processor did its job and didn't leave any chunks behind. Double check this, of course, when you are actually feeding the baby.

After the baby is accustomed to eating the solid foods that you have pureed, you may find that you want to try some of the mixtures you see in the prepared jars of baby food. Two vegetables mixed are often tasty, but fruit combinations are tried more often.

Ask the baby's doctor about serving a little bit of yogurt either by itself or mixed with one of the fruits. Some doctors will give a green light for this but others would rather have you wait until the baby is a little older.

One problem with making your own baby food is that you will undoubtedly make a lot more pureed fruits and vegetables than baby will be able to eat in a day or two. The best way I've heard to avoid this is to freeze "cubes" of the food in freezer bags. The cubes are made by freezing the baby food you prepare in ice cube trays.

As the baby gets older and is able to eat just about everything that you have on the table for the rest of the family, you will find that blending up your casseroles and main dishes and meats (be sure to research how to make homemade baby food meats before you do this) for the baby will have become second nature to you and you can feel confident that the baby isn't getting all kinds of preservatives and extra sodium and sugars from processed foods.