Baby food — pureed fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, or poultry — is generally recommended by pediatricians to be introduced to babies once they reach approximately four months of age. While commercial baby food is widely available in single-size jars, parents may opt to make their own baby food for a variety of reasons, such as control over ingredient quality or to save money. Since commercial baby food is heated for extended periods of time before jar packaging in order to kill bacteria that may occur if it isn’t preserved correctly, making baby food from scratch may also help retain more nutritional value that can be lost during the heating process.
When selecting foods to use for making baby food, certain precautions are recommended to ensure the safety of the food. While most fruits, vegetables, meats, and grains are acceptable, it is advised to avoid using items that contain nitrates, chemicals found in soil and water that can cause a type of anemia in babies. Foods that tend to be highest in nitrates and are not recommended for homemade baby food include carrots, beets, spinach, green beans, and squash. Fresh, frozen, or canned items may all be used for making baby food.
The preparation for ingredients for homemade baby food may vary slightly depending on the specific item, but most consist of removing any peels or seeds from fruits or vegetables or skin, bones, and connective tissues from meats, and then softening the food and making it as smooth as possible. Some foods, such as avocados, can easily be mashed with a fork and don’t require any additional prep, but most foods need to be heated until cooked through in order to become soft enough. While items may be baked or roasted, steaming or microwaving are the methods thought to retain the most nutrients.
There are a variety of tools that may be used for making baby food, as well as storing it. Basic kitchen tools, such as food processors, blenders, and food mills, may be used to puree foods for baby food; however, there are commercial baby food makers that steam, defrost, and puree foods all in the same device and prevent the need for any preliminary cooking. If making multiple batches of baby food ahead of time, specialized single portion baby food containers can be used to store the food in the refrigerator or freezer, or ice cube trays may also be used.
While many parents prefer homemade baby food, others find there are disadvantages. Some parents may find it too time-consuming to prepare and store food, and it may require frequent cleaning of various kitchen appliances and items for each batch. Some also prefer the convenience of purchasing pre-measured commercial baby food.