Sunday, December 30, 2012

You CAN make your own Baby Food

I first made baby food when my sister had her baby a few years ago.  Now my brother has a little one so it seems like a good time to revisit what I learned the first time around...

If you can boil water, you can make your own baby food – seriously:
  1. Boil an inch of water in a pan
  2. Throw in a steamer/strainer of peeled, chopped fruit or vegetables
  3. Steam until soft
  4. Drain and puree to desired consistency
Ta da! Baby food: it took you maybe 10 minutes, you have enough for multiple meals (little babies have little tummies), and it’s the healthiest thing you can feed your little one. You know where the food came from and what is in it. And I’m betting it didn’t cost you very much. (Incidentally, this is also how to make a very simple fruit or vegetable puree, such as apple sauce)

This little guide outlines some bare basics to start feeding your baby (or grandbaby, niece, cousin or best friend’s baby) the best food possible.
There are quite a few very thorough and helpful baby food cookbooks available. But this post is intended to help you just jump right in and make it. Healthy babies should often start eating foods around 6 months (I'm a big believer in exclusive breastfeeding is best for the first 6 months), but all babies are different so look for the signs that your baby is ready to start eating other foods:
  • baby is interested in your food
  • baby can sit up
  • baby can hold food in mouth without spitting up or choking (please let's avoid any choking)
Feeding too early can cause tummy aches, trouble sleeping, diarrhea, food allergies, and (you guessed it) choking.  It's also a good idea to learn CPR when you have a little baby.

And, of course, choose organic! Grow your own or visit your farmers market!  And if you need more convincing, read the policy of the American Academy of Pediatrics recognizing how harmful pesticides are to children's health.

Because of my background in nutrition (especially child nutrition), love of food, and love of my neices, it's very exciting to feed them! Based on my research, I put together this simple mini guide for baby foods...

here's the list of good first foods
  • iron-fortified rice cereal
  • ripe banana (but these are rare locally in season and not sustainable as an exotic import)
  • apple sauce
  • ripe avocado (always in season)
  • sweet potato
Again, make sure all fruit and vegetables are peeled, cooked, and pureed. When getting started, all foods should be mixed until very smooth (use a ricer or immersion blender) with breast milk to a thin consistency (no choking!).

Introduce one at a time, with at least 4 days between introducing a new food so you know the culprit if there is a bad reaction.

Next foods to try:
  • single grain iron-fortified cereal: barley, millet, oatmeal
  • peeled, cooked, strained fruits: apricots, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums

Best foods to Try at 6 months
  • cereals, whole grain: brown rice, millet, oat
  • pear: peeled raw pureed
  • winter squash: peeled cooked pureed
  • yogurt: goat milk, plain, unsweetened

At 7 months
  • cereals, mixed
  • egg yolk: hard cooked, mashed with liquid
  • peach: peeled,  raw, pureed
  • peeled, cooked, pureed: asparagus, carrot, squash, potato
  • diluted, strained juice: apple, apricot, grape, pear, peach prune 

From 8-10 months, slowly start increasing the thickness, then lumpiness, eventually to soft, bite-sized pieces.

At 8 months
  • cheese: goat or sheep
  • tahini
  • ground seeds
  • powdered kelp
  • fruits - peeled, mashed: apricot, apple, kiwi fruit, persimmon, plums
  • vegetables - peeled, cooked, mashed: broccoli, okra, parsley 

At 9 months
  • vegetables - peeled, cooked, mashed: beets, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, eggplant, greens, kale, parsnip, rutabaga, spinach,  turnip 

At 10 months
  • cereal: bulgar
  • cornmeal: cooked, whole grain
  • spouts, ground
  • vegetables - finely grated, raw: squash, carrot, bell pepper 

Foods Not to Try Yet & Why

honey & corn syrup - food poisoning; wait until 1 year old
cow’s milk & any cow’s milk products - lactose intolerance; wait until 1 year old
hard cooked egg white - choking; wait until 1 year old
raw eggs - food poisoning (this is probably not an issue if you have backyard chickens but better safe than sorry)

Wait Until 1 Year Old - High Risk of Allergy
  • fruits: cantaloupe, citrus juice or fruit, lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, honeydew, mango, melon, papaya, tomato, watermelon
  • vegetables: garlic, green beans, onion, peas, dried beans & lentils
  • nut butters
  • whole wheat (germ, pasta…)

Wait Until 3 years old - Choking Hazard
  • any raw, unpeeled, hard, under ripe, stringy, seedy or leafy fruit or veggie: apple, carrot, berries, celery, cherries, corn, grapes, greens, mushroom, bell pepper, peas, squash
  • raisins & any dried fruit
  • popcorn
  • nuts
  • thick/chunky nut butter
  • marshmallows
  • ice cubes
  • olives
  • chips
  • pretzel
  • hot dog
  • meat, bacon, gristle
  • all candy & wrappers
  • gum