Written By Allison Prater |
Introducing solid food into your baby’s diet is the beginning of so many exciting adventures with your child. Their discovery of different flavors and textures, colors, aromas, even temperatures of food, is a joy to watch. Our family is at the beginning of this journey. We have just started making our own baby food for our 6-month-old son. I can already see many advantages to making my own instead of purchasing store bought products.
Certainly the cost of making my own is less than purchasing food by the jar. I can make one apple or one sweet potato stretch for a weeks worth of food, and I don’t have to deal with washing and recycling/repurposing jars. My kitchen can only hold so many repurposed jars…but that’s another story. Many of the foods I am using to make his food, such as peas, carrots, beets, squash, cauliflower, tomatoes, eggplant and beans, have come out of our garden. I know the ingredients that are going in my son’s food have not been grown with pesticides and have been handled and cleaned safely.
Eating food that was freshly prepared gives my son more vitamins, minerals and enzymes that the food is designed to give him in the first place. I have also been making it a point to show him food in its whole form, and to include him when I harvest food from the garden. I want him to understand that food comes from the earth, and to appreciate all the miraculous intricacies of that process. I talk to him about our food. From the time he was a tiny baby I would show him fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. I would let him smell them; sometimes feel them with his hands. When he got to be around four months old, I let him taste certain foods I was eating, such as apples, pears and avocados. Recently, I introduced cooked peas and yams, and plan on introducing more green and orange vegetables and a little bit of fruit. I want to include a green food into at least two of his meals, and for him to see me eating and enjoying green foods as well.
In his book “Feeding Baby Green,” Dr Alan Greene talks about the period of four to nine months being an excellent window for nurturing baby’s love of green foods. This is a time when babies are taking in a lot of information about their world by putting things in their months. As they get older and start walking, they go through a stage where they are reluctant to try unfamiliar foods. This is thought to be a survival mechanism that would prevent newly walking children from accidentally eating poisonous foods, when humans still lived in the forests. By including green foods in baby’s diet from the beginning, as well as a balance of other vegetables, fruits, whole grains and proteins, we are able to nurture healthy eating habits. When greens and other fresh foods are familiar to a child from the very beginning, they are less likely to shun these foods in later years. It’s an interesting read that covers pregnancy through pre-adolescence of your child, and has some great recipes. I highly recommend it. I’ve also included a great homemade baby food recipe book in the references.
Many safety concerns are brought up when it comes to introducing solid foods to your baby. The first is allergies. Signs of allergy include spitting up, diarrhea, constipation, blood in stool, irritability or skin rashes. Eliminate any suspected foods and discuss it with your doctor before re-introducing this food. Honey should not be given before the baby is at least a year old. Some people even wait two years to prevent infant botulism. Raw or undercooked meat or eggs should not be given, and raw or undercooked produce unless, like a banana, it is peeled before it is eaten. Foods that are choking hazards, such as raisins, whole grapes, popcorn, peanut butter, nuts, meats or any other foods that are not pureed and require too much chewing. Even as baby’s teeth come in, these foods need to stay soft.
There are also some safety precautions to keep in mind in the kitchen. Always start with a clean work surface and utensils. Food can be stored in the freezer, and it is recommended that it be used within a month. The food can be reheated one time, and should always be removed from the container with a clean spoon. Containers that have been eaten from may not be stored and reused. Finally, be sure the water you are adding to baby’s food has been tested for any heavy metals or nitrates, if that is a concern in your area.
I have been using the Beaba Babycook, which is both a food processor and a steamer. It works great for reheating frozen meals, even in very small quantities. I was also gifted a baby bullet, which comes with great BPA-free storage containers, and has a grain mill setting so you can make your own cereals with whole grains. You can also use many kitchen utensils that may already be in your kitchen, such as a vegetable steamer, food processor/blender, and ice-cube trays (for storage). So far we are having a lot of fun introducing the cycle that food travels from garden to table to our son. I’m sure we have many exciting adventures ahead of us as he continues his discovery.
1. Greene MD, Alan. Feeding Baby Green. Jossey-Bass. San Francisco, 2009.
2. Knight R.N, Karin and Ruggiero M.S. R.D. L.D, Tina. The Best Homemade Baby Food on the Planet. Fairwinds Press. 2010.