So you want to make your own homemade baby food?
There are a ton of benefits to preparing and/or cooking your baby’s food yourself. It may seem a little daunting, especially if you don’t feel very confident about cooking or you’re worried about making food that’s “safe” for you baby to eat.
Maybe you’re really pushed for time and would like to try cooking your own homemade baby food, but feel like it’s not possible to fit into your daily routine.
Don’t worry, because preparing baby’s meals yourself is actually really simple! This article is all about how to make your own baby food and aims to give you the confidence, plus the inspiration, for cooking for your baby. It also tells you how to cook for your baby AND the adults, or older kids, in your family all in one go. This means making your baby’s food does not take you any additional time.
When I weaned my two kids I prepared or cooked all of their food for them. We did use sachets of food when we went on holiday with my eldest daughter when she was around seven months. We had just got started with weaning, so she wasn’t at the stage where we could really order her food at a restaurant and we didn’t want to worry about packing all the stuff we would need to store homemade food for her.
I’m telling you this because I want you to know it’s absolutely fine to use some store bought food if that’s what you want to do! In some circumstances it is just more convenient.
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Homemade baby food vs shop bought baby food
So what are the pros and cons of homemade baby food vs store bought baby food?
The big one here is cost. It’s thought that making your own baby food costs a third of what store bought jars or sachets cost, according to Money Crashers. https://www.moneycrashers.com/pros-and-cons-homemade-baby-food/
The money saving element is most stark in the first few weeks of weaning, when your baby may only take a few bites of new foods. If you can simply take a few spoonfuls of your own food to offer your baby, this is saving you money, and preventing food waste.
Let’s take a look at some of the other pros and cons.
Homemade baby food pros
- Your baby gets used to your home cooking. There will come a point when your baby will grow out of the store bought jars. When that happens and they need to get used to the tastes and textures of your home cooking, they may be a little resistant at first. Getting your baby used to your own home cooking which the entire family normally eats means there are no struggles as your baby gets older.
- It’s fresh. Homemade baby food is packaged and stored in a way to preserve it while it sits on a supermarket shelf. Your food is fresh from the oven, or freezer.
Homemade baby food cons
- It can be time consuming. I’m going to share some tips that will show you how you can cut back on the time, but certainly in the early months when food needs to be mashed or pureed it does take more time when compared to opening a store bought jar.
- Difficult to use on the go. You can put your own homemade baby food into plastic food containers inside a cool bag to take with you, but it can be a pain to cart around with you everywhere. The store bought sachets tend to easy to grab and go, plus they don’t need refridgerating.
Shop bought baby food pros
- Super quick to prepare. Just open the jar and feed.
- Lots of variety. There are now tons of brands making baby food and loads of different meals available.
- Easy to feed on the go. The jars don’t need to be kept chilled so you just pop them open and feed when you’re out of the house.
Shop bought baby food cons
- The cost. While individual pouches of baby food can cost more than £1 each, if you cook baby’s food yourself you can simply set aside small amounts of your own food for your baby.
- Less environmentally-friendly. While some packaging can be recycled, using sachets and jars increases the amount of waste you throw out every week.
- Potentially fewer nutrients. The high heat used in production of jarred baby food to kill germs can also reduce the amount of nutrients in the food.
How to save time when making baby food
I prefer the don’t cook twice method of preparing baby food. It’s no fun cooking tons of different meals to suit everyone’s tastes or stage of eating and it’s a massive time suck.
My method means you simply take a portion from your own meals to feed to your baby, and maybe even freeze some for another day.
So for example when cooking a Sunday roast, when my kids were babies I would cook additional veg (potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower) then take some of that to mash. I would feed some to my baby, and store the rest in an ice cube tray or baby food storage tray to serve them on another day.
In order to make this work so that the food is safe and appropriate for your baby you simply need to not season it with salt until when you’re just about to serve it for the adults in the family. Take your baby’s portion away right after it has been cooked, then season it for everyone else after that.
You can cook with whole cows’ milk from the fridge after six months (your baby continues to need infant formula or breastmilk for their milk feeds), so when it comes to making mashed potato everyone can have the same recipe.
This method does require some meal planning in order to make sure you can fit your meals around letting your baby be exposed to a range of first foods when getting started with weaning.
But really it’s just a case of making sure you and the other adults or older children in your family are having a variety of veg so that your baby gets to try it too.
What kit do you need for making baby food
You can get baby food prep machines, but I’ll be honest with you and say that while they may add a little bit of convenience you really do not need them.
My method preparing your baby’s food definitely means you don’t need them, because I think it’s much easier to cook for the whole family and take a portion from that to give your baby.
What you do need is:
- Food processor – I have a large food processor but also recommend the Kenwood Mini Chopper as it’s amazing for blending small portions of food.
- Ice cube trays or baby food storage trays – Simple ice cube trays make great storage for baby food, but the storage trays made specifically for baby food are good as they come with a lid. You can also get small individual pots that hold enough for one portion.
- Bowls – When choosing bowls and other utensils choose ones that are made from plastic that is BPA free and that is machine washable.
- Water cup – Choose one that is free-flow. I like these non-spill ones.
- Bibs – The ones that catch food are good, or you can get bibs that baby wears almost like an apron to full cover their clothes.
- High chair
- Splash mat – you can use an old shower curtain. This is to go under the high chair to catch any mess.
How to prepare food for baby
Most foods will need to be steamed, boiled or cooked before feeding to your baby, however there are some no-cook options which are listed in the recipes section below. Steaming is best with fruits and veg as it prevents the loss of too many nutrients.
With vegetables and certain fruits, you will need to cook until they are tender enough to mash into a puree. How long this takes really depends on the food, so try to keep checking with a fork to see if the food is tender enough to mash.
Most fruits take just five minutes of steaming to soften and vegetables will need around seven to 10 minutes. If you’re using a microwave to steam the food then you should adjust timings to a few minutes less.
Once you have cooked the food you will need to mash or puree the food in a food processor or with a fork or masher.
To get the consistency right for your baby you can add a little formula, breastmilk, whole milk from the fridge or water.
At first with the stage 1 first tastes of food you will want to try and get the consistency to be very smooth and not too thick.
Once the food is ready remember to check the temperature before serving to your baby.
If you have food leftover, you can store it in the freezer for up to one month. Try to store it in portions using ice cube trays or small baby food storage pots with lids.
I used ice cube trays and this way could offer my baby just the one cube of food at the start of weaning, then as their appetite grew I offered more cubes.
Also with separate cubes of different foods you can defrost and combine them to make a mixture or serve them alongside each other.
Once my babies were beyond the first two stages of weaning I would grab a cube a cauliflower or other veg plus a couple of cubes of beef casserole for example and then serve the two alongside each other on a plate.
When defrosting, be sure to do so thoroughly in the fridge overnight before serving to your baby.
Be aware that when reheating food in the microwave it can develop hotspots which may not be immediately obvious. Stir well after microwaving and be sure to test the food temperature with a (clean) finger or by tasting yourself.
Dos and don’ts for making baby food
When making your own baby food, try to stick to the following basic guidance.
- Do steam where possibly instead of boiling to retain more nutrients in vegetables and fruit. I love my bamboo steamer, but you can also buy cheap microwave steamers too.
- Do vary what you offer your baby. Start with first, single tastes of just one fruit or vegetable, working through them over the course of a couple of weeks. Then start to combine those single tastes together. Try different combinations to see what they prefer.
- Do use formula, breastmilk or water to make purees to the right consistency for your baby. Add small amounts, stir well, then repeat as needed until it’s smooth.
- Do take care to halve things such as berries and grapes which can get trapped in the throat if swallowed whole.
- Do monitor your baby after giving them a new food such as peanut butter or eggs to check for allergies.
- Do store batches of baby food in the freezer in air-tight containers and use within one month. Defrost thoroughly before use and do not reheat twice.
- Do check your baby is ready for weaning, looking for the signs including that they are holding their head up steadily on their own, can sit upright and are showing an interest in sold foods.
- Don’t add salt. When you graduate from single tastes to meals such as spaghetti bolognaise and casseroles which you may serve to the whole family, you could try using low salt stock cubes.
- Don’t add sugar.
- Don’t give your baby honey until they are age one. This is due to the potential risk of them getting botulism. There’s more information on what foods to avoid giving your baby on the NHS website.
- Don’t give your baby whole nuts. These can be a choking risk. Smooth peanut butter is fine, and early exposure to nuts has been shown to reduce the risk of allergies. Allergy UK says that delaying introducing certain foods, such as nuts, can actually increase the risk of your child developing allergies.
- Don’t wean your baby before six months.
Stage 1 baby food recipes
Stage 1 baby foods tend to be very smooth and like a thick soup in terms of texture to make them easy to swallow. When making any of these fruit and veg purees or mashes, simple cook until tender then mash to a smooth texture, adding milk or water to make it a thinner texture.
You can add herbs such as basil, thyme, or rosemary to these purees and mashes to add a little extra flavour. Simply mix them in and blitz in a food processors after cooking.
- Apple puree
- Carrot puree
- Pear puree
- Mashed potato
- Mashed sweet potato
- Pea puree – try adding a few mint leaves when blending this puree to add a little interesting flavour
- Parsnip puree
- Swede puree
- Butternut squash puree
- Spinach puree
- Broccoli puree
- Courgette puree
- Cauliflower pueree
- Prune puree – this is a great one if your baby is constipated. Simply steam or simmer for around 15 minutes before blending.
Stage 1 combinations
When combining different purees you can experiment and have fun. Try mixing together the purees in equal parts and see which ones your baby likes best.
By adding baby rice or cereals to purees you can make a delicious meal. Simply mix up one portion of baby rice, following the instructions on the packet, then mix with two teaspoons of your chosen fruit or veg puree.
- Sweet potato and spinach
- Carrot and potato
- Carrot, swede and potato
- Broccoli, courgette and parsnip
- Apple and banana
- Banana and avocado
- Courgette and apple
- Pea, spinach and broccoli
- Butternut squash, sweet potato and parsnip
- Pear, apple and baby rice
- Pear, peach and baby rice
No-cook stage 1 purees
- Mango – there’s a post with tips for preparing mango here
- Peanut butter – simply mix with a little water for a smooth consistency
Stage 2 baby food recipes
Stage 2 baby foods are thicker and may have lumps in them. They are like a halfway stage towards having meals that resemble more of what the rest of the family eats.
At this point you may want to start introducing meat and fish to your baby. Ensure it’s either blended in a puree or shredded so that there’s no risk of choking.
When combining veg and fruit with meat you can try first steaming the veg then adding two parts veg to one part cooked meat and blending well to a puree.
Alternatively, try cooking a casserole your chosen meat with the veg in low salt stock. Serve it to everyone else in your family as a casserole with mash on the side, then for baby simply puree the casserole with the mash before serving.
You can also try using tins of chopped tomatoes to make tomato sauces too. Fry a little onion in olive oil until soft then tip in the chopped tomatoes and adding your chosen veg, and simmer for around 25 minutes. This makes a great veg sauce to use with pasta, and you can add some cooked meat such as chicken too before blending.
Try adding beans at this stage as well such as haricot beans and butter beans. Simply add them to things such as the casserole described above.
Stage 3 baby food recipes
Stage 3 baby food is thicker in texture and includes chunks of food. Your baby will be ready for stage 3 foods at around nine to 10 months. It could be earlier if they have progressed well with stage 2 textures.
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