Monkey baby food

Homemade vs Store Bought Baby Food

Walk into any grocery store in America and there will be a whole aisle devoted to baby care, especially baby food.  It seems so convenient just to grab a few jars as you get the rest of your groceries.  So why should you go the trouble of making your own baby food at home?  Here are a few reasons I have found that led me and my family to choose homemade baby food over store bought.

When prepared correctly, homemade baby food is safer.  Store bought foods can contain chemicals, preservatives, even rat droppings.  Yes you read that right.  There is actually a standard set forth by the US government for how much parts of animal droppings, hair, dirt and other nasty stuff can be in baby food.  I don’t know about you, but I prefer my baby to have rat free food.  I can get organic veggies straight out of my garden or from my local farmers market, wash it well, then make everything in my nice clean kitchen, completely free of animal droppings and dirt.

The containers store-bought baby foods come in can contain nasty plastic chemicals as well.  I was a little surprised when I walked down the baby aisle and saw how much of the baby food comes in little plastic cups now instead of the old glass jars we all know and love.  Unless specifically labeled, these plastic containers can contain chemicals such as BPA that, when heated in a microwave, can leach into your baby’s food.  These chemicals have been linked to cancers, brain damage and a host of other medical issues.

Homemade baby food is much, much, much cheaper than store-bought.  I can’t stress it enough how much cheaper it is.  Walk through your local grocery store and take a look at the baby food.  Name brand baby food can be over a dollar a jar, even the tiny first level food jars.  Want to be healthy and get organic baby food?  That price can nearly double.

Now look at homemade baby food.  I can buy a pound of organic carrots from my local farmers market for about $1-2 depending on the season.  With this one pound of carrots, I can make ten or more servings of baby food.  Larger, second level servings at that.  I can also use the foods I feed the rest of my family and not have to buy anything extra.  For example, if I’m making chicken, green beans and mashed potatoes for my family, I save a small portion of green beans and potatoes off to the side and use that to make my baby’s meal with.  Add some pureed bananas and there’s her meal.  I can also save a small portion of chicken to puree for her if I choose.  No wasted foods, nothing extra to buy.

It sounds odd, but homemade baby food is actually easier than store-bought.  As in my above example, I use the foods I’m serving my family anyway. I just save out a small amount without any oils or seasonings to use in the baby food.  I feed the rest of my family a wide variety of foods, so my baby also gets a variety.  In the time it would take to get the baby ready, go to the store and come home, I can quickly make several servings of homemade food.  No extra time or shopping required.  I keep a few extra servings frozen in the freezer for nights when we eat out or are crunched for time.

It is also easier to discover allergies with homemade baby food.  With store-bought food, the food can contain fillers, preservatives and who knows what else.  If your child has an allergic reaction after eating store-bought baby food, how can you really know if the reaction was to the food or to something in the food.  With home-made food, there is no extra stuff in the food to cause a reaction.  If your baby has a reaction after eating home-made carrots, you can be sure the reaction was to the carrots, not some preservative or filler.  This makes it much easier for the parents and for baby’s doctor to help make sure baby stays away from specific allergens.

How do I know when my baby is ready to move from milk only to trying foods?
Always check with your doctor first.  Every child is different and will require different timetables for eating.  Here are some general guidelines, when most (not every!) baby is ready to try first foods:

  • Most babies start around 4-6 months.  This depends on baby’s developmental level.  Some babies will be ready to go at 4 months, some take a little longer.
  • Baby is able to sit up on their own.
  • Baby is able to open mouth when offered food.
  • Baby is able to turn head away and refuse food when they are full.
  • After nursing, baby still seems hungry.

What are good first foods to try?
The following are foods that have a low likelihood of causing an allergic reaction.  When introducing a new food, give it early in the day.  This will allow the whole day for any potential allergic reactions to develop. Never give a baby a new food just before bedtime.  You should always monitor a baby for several hours after a new food has been given to watch for rash, difficulty breathing, diarrhea and other symptoms of allergic reaction.  If you do see any of these symptoms developing, call your doctor right away.

Good first foods to try:

  • cereal such as brown rice
  • sweet potatoes
  • carrots
  • green beans
  • peas
  • bananas
  • applesauce
  • peaches
  • pears

So how do I make baby food at home?
It really is a simple process.  I have a Baby Bullet system that I absolutely love!  It makes the whole process super easy.  But you can also use a regular food processor if you have one.  Here are the steps to making your own baby food.

  1. Buy or grow your fruits veggies.  I choose organic fruits and veggies.  This way there are no pesticides or fertilizers in them.
  2. Thoroughly wash your produce.  Whether you grow your own or buy your produce, always wash your veggies.
  3. Steam or boil anything that is not soft.  Things like bananas and avocados do not need to be steamed but pretty much everything else does.  I choose to steam, I feel it leaves more of the nutrients in the food.  If you do not have a steamer, boiling is just fine.
  4. Remove from steamer or boiling water and allow the produce to cool.
  5. Remove any seeds, stalks and peelings from the produce.
  6. Put produce in processor with small amount of water.  (Start with a small amount, you can always add more water to get the right consistency.
  7. Pulse until produce is smooth and slightly runny for small babies, you can leave it slightly lumpy for older babies.  Keep adding water until you get the right consistency.
  8. You can serve right away or store in the fridge or freezer.  If you want to store the food, pour it into small containers (glass or BPA free plastic only!!!).  You can store in the fridge for about 3-4 days and in the freezer for about a month.

Don’t add oils or seasonings to baby food, especially for younger babies.  Babies taste buds are more sensitive than ours. You don’t want to overload them with to many flavors.  Their little digestive systems also can’t handle too many spices and additives.

Got a question or comment?  Leave it below, I’d love to hear from you!  What foods does your baby love (or hate)?

Photo Credit: Monkey Food via photopin (license)

Please, keep your comments family friendly and respectful of each other and the author.