HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
What are you cooking today? Get great advice
TELL US

Making baby food

AmblerGirl Jan 26, 2010 03:53 AM

I plan on making my baby's food and am not sure where to begin.

I was going to splurge and buy the expensive Beaba Babycook baby food maker, but I think I may be able to do it with what I have on hand. What do I need to get started? I have a food processor and a hand held blender. Do I need a food mill too? Do I need a special steamer? Or should I just make the splurge?

I want to start out basic - with simple organic fruits and veggies with no salt or sugar added. Any advice on which are best starter foods?

Any other advice?

Thanks!!

  1. Becca Porter May 13, 2010 08:24 AM

    Exciting!

    http://smittenkitchen.com/baby/

    1 Reply
    1. re: Becca Porter
      chowser May 13, 2010 09:30 AM

      Vanilla bean pear sauce w/ balsamic vinegar for a baby--what a great start as a chowhound!

    2. i
      isadorasmama Jan 28, 2010 01:49 PM

      While there are doctors who can guide you, I wouldn't depend on them for nutritional advice.
      It's wise to start with mashed beans, vegetables, fruits, and pureed meats. Grains, nuts, and non--cultured dairy should be last. With my oldest I waited until she was a year old before introducing any grains or nuts....they are the most common allergens.

      I started with jarred baby food and making my own but eventually realized it was pointless. Why do they need to eat something other than what the adults were eating? When they are very young eating is more about exploring rather than their prime source of nutrition. I made sure I introduced more exotic flavors and spices (NOT spicy like peppers) early and I believe this is what led them to be a little more adventurous later on. My oldest LOVES things like pate and olives. My son (he's a toddler) is less apt to try things (especially green) than his sister but we're working on it.

      Things to try: hummus, avocados, ground beef, mango, lentil purees, and unsweetened yogurt

      1. j
        JudiAU Jan 28, 2010 12:27 PM

        I found a stick blender, an eight cup pyrex measuring cup, ice cube trays, and a microwave to be ideal. Everything else like "bebecook" or special freezer cups was a waste of money. Almost everything was prepared with those four items and it was very easy. Everything went in the dishwasher. Nothing had special parts.

        A food mill *can* be handle for especially tough veg like pea skins but it is really only necessary in the very beginning. Your baby will be able to handle the skin fairly soon.

        We always prepared cerreal grains from scratch as well using a small coffee grinder or a mini food processor.

        www.wholesomebabyfood.com is very helpful. Super Baby Food also has some good information but some of the information is dated.

        When starting solids we took a class with a pediatric nutrionist. Good starter foods are avocado and sweet potato. She strongly suggested avoiding things like rice cereal aka diabetes in a can until much later, and then made with whole grains.

        Homemade baby food is much cheaper and tastier than that nasty stuff sold in the stores.

        Some favorite combos: bag of frozen peaches, bag of frozen cherries, two peeled apples. Puree. "Purple" is still a favorite in this house. Also, red lentils with carrots and a bit of spice and onion. The only thing I never bothered with was apple sauce. Never did get the texture right, probably because I live on the West Coast and the apples are too sweet. I always used unsweetened applsauce instead.

        3 Replies
        1. re: JudiAU
          m
          mountaincachers Jan 28, 2010 01:47 PM

          JudiAU, you must not have had a spitter. Cherries (or blueberries) were not on the menu at our house. "Purple" would have been a disaster. :-)

          1. re: mountaincachers
            d
            DGresh Jan 28, 2010 02:46 PM

            ha. On my (9 month old) daughter's baptism day the mantra was "only white food"

            1. re: mountaincachers
              MrsCheese Jan 28, 2010 07:09 PM

              Ha, my daughter spent her first 9 months with a bib around her neck! "Spitter" is an understatement.

          2. chowser Jan 28, 2010 03:39 AM

            You've already gotten a lot of good advice but I'd add not starting with just rice and bananas which is what we did with our first--it caused constipation. It's not that common but does happen and easy enough to avoid. I would avoid special equipment, too. This phase is over before you know it and they're on to finger foods quickly.

            1 Reply
            1. re: chowser
              m
              mountaincachers Jan 28, 2010 04:11 AM

              Isn't that true of so many baby products (eg baby swings, etc)? They seem so important at the time, but outgrown in a flash. Borrow, borrow, borrow. If you have friend with the pricy baby food maker, I'd see if I could borrow for a few months. Otherwise, use your food processor, hand blender, ricer, or fork. Stick the money you save in a 529.

            2. MrsCheese Jan 27, 2010 06:09 PM

              Just wanted to chime in and say that I never used anything beyond a food processor (I especially like the Cuisinart mini for baby food) and many times got away with using a fork. Sometimes I steamed the veggies, sometimes roasted (like for squash)- usually depended on what I was doing for our dinner. Keep it simple! :-)

              Like the pedi said, I did not make my own carrots bc I was worried about nitrates. I also had some trouble getting green beans smooth at first because they're stringy (maybe needed a food mill?) but soon the baby graduates to chunkier food and it's no biggie.

              Also second the recommendation for the wholesomebabyfood website. I used that a lot.

              I never really bothered much with fruits- either gave regular unsweetened applesauce or mashed a banana with a fork. Then once my daughter was a couple of months older she ate lots of fruits as finger foods (mandarin oranges were her favorite!).

              Keep in mind that if you feed your kid homemade baby food, they won't need the pureed stuff for long. You have total control over the texture, so you can gradually make it chunkier, and the babe will be ready for finger foods before you know it. Great for developing that pincer grasp! Nothing cuter than a baby chasing peas around a highchair tray.

              1. m
                mountaincachers Jan 27, 2010 06:03 AM

                I am a pediatrician and mom of a good eater. I think it's great that you are making your own baby food. There are a lot of theories about how to introduce foods, none of them based on much science. It makes sense to me to start with less sweet things (green vegetables) then add sweeter things later (yellow vegetables and fruit), but this really isn't proven. I think giving a couple days in between new foods is a good idea. I think most people don't mess up when they are feeding their infants...many more mistakes are made when they become more picky toddlers and parents often slip into the great American white diet for their kids.
                My only warning to you is that I would not prepare my own beets, turnips, carrots, or collard greens for your infant. These can have large amounts of nitrates in them, which can cause anemia in a baby. Baby food companies screen for these, and don't use produce from areas with this problem. No way for you to do this yourself. For these foods, I would buy commercial.

                1. s
                  smartie Jan 27, 2010 04:03 AM

                  I used an electric hand held whizzer. Never bought baby food I always made my own from vegetables in soup (make a chicken soup with lots of roots, remove veggies and whizz) and don't add salt to your own food till you've taken out baby's. I initially bought some baby fruit in jars then kept the jars for storage of my own baby food. Pop the lids back on and they froze pefectly in just the right amounts. Once you have tried different ingredients and baby is not allergic then just whizz up what you are having for dinner, adding a little of baby's milk for the right consistency for his age.

                  1. luckyfatima Jan 26, 2010 07:51 PM

                    I have two toddlers. For both of them when they started eating I boiled rice, lentils, and any vegetable (except excessively gassy ones like cabbage and cauliflower) together and just pureed that. I also wrapped sweet potatoes in foil, oven baked, and pureed. I fed them squash, too. I also used different carb sources for porridges, like semolina, chickpea flour, corn flour, tapioca flour, and so on to give them variety and not just rice. I avoided giving them anything sweet at first so that they wouldn't reject veggies. I don't know if that is just an old wive's tale or what, but it worked for me and both of my girls are 'good eaters.'

                    1. Cherylptw Jan 26, 2010 10:53 AM

                      I used a fork and something to cook the food in...I didn't use a food processor but it will come in handy if you want to use it. I pretty much gave my baby the same thing that the rest of the family was having, so I cooked it fresh every day and didn't season it when cooking, I think ( it's been 24 years) I started with scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes and chicken and worked my way up

                      1. j
                        jencounter Jan 26, 2010 08:33 AM

                        My kids are older (12 and 9), but I made all of their foods when they were babies. All you really need is a blender and a pan in which to steam the veg. (except for sweet potatoes, I always baked those rather than steam).

                        Avocado was suggested above, wonderful recommendation. Lots of good fats in there for baby. My youngest LOVED avocado and still does now.

                        Typically, I would set aside an afternoon and make all of the food for the week - I always had a freezer full of small portions; it makes life so much easier. Since you're just starting out, you're going to do single foods anyway, so just steam (or bake off) a bunch of sweet potatoes or carrots (typical first foods), puree them in the blender (when I steamed carrots, I saved the steaming water and used that to thin the food), plop into ice cube trays or even onto a sheet pan (in blobs, kind of like cookie dough) and freeze.

                        Lastly: your baby may reject a food today and then love it in a week. Keep trying.

                        1. k
                          kookiegoddess Jan 26, 2010 08:17 AM

                          just a warning. variety is key in the first 12 months of solids, that is, 6-18months. My little girl had a LOT of roasted root veggies initially and I think I might have put her off - she is definitely not so hot on them now, at 16 months. But I have always given her a bit of what I'm having unless it's really hot and I think it's made her more adventurous. And take yr kid to restaurants. Give yourself a break from cooking and let them have fun trying everything from the parsley garnish to the lemon in your drink. Kids are fearless and at worst they'll spit it out. Also, I gave her broccoli and cherry tomatoes very regularly from the beginning and she is now pretty good about eating both. Good luck. And prepare to have some low days, feeding kids can be extremely trying but eventually they will surprise you and eat well. Finally, don't be worried if they only eat a little some times, you will hear over and over that they regulate their diet themselves and will make up for it some other time. Enjoy!

                          1. eLizard Jan 26, 2010 06:56 AM

                            I have a 6 month old.... this site will tell you everything you need to know: http://www.wholesomebabyfood.com/

                            no need for special equipment. especially since you already have a fp! you can steam, boil (and add the boiling liquid to thin out the food) or roast just about anything. avocado and bananas just need to be mashed with a fork.

                            some people suggest veggies before fruits, some say start with all orange foods (peaches, squash, sweat potatoes), others say start with the p's (peas, peaches, pears). my pedi says you can't make a mistake. as long as you're not giving him shellfish with peanutbutter sauce! just wait 3 days before introducing new foods.... oh, and they say to offer your cherub a food at least 10 times before chalking up his rejection to dislike.... and i've found that carrots can be hated one day and loved another. most of all, have fun!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: eLizard
                              Pia Jan 26, 2010 08:13 AM

                              Another good resource is the book "Super Baby Food" by Ruth Yaron (although it's very anti-meat).

                              I also did the ice cube tray thing, and steamed or microwaved the fruit or veggies. As eLizard suggested, thin it out with water, and blend it carefully -- even small chunks, or thick purees, can be difficult for beginning eaters. For a baby just starting out, it should have the texture of a thickened soup. You can use less water and have chunkier textures as the baby gets older. I would suggest investing in a food mill or full-size blender -- in my experience, the food processor and hand blender couldn't puree the food finely enough, even though I strained it.

                              Also, it can be fun to blend foods together -- if you have the ice cubes, it's easy to do this. I often did fruit and oatmeal blended together for breakfast.

                              Oh, one other thing -- don't feel like a failure if everything your baby eats isn't homemade! It can be really useful to keep a few jars on hand (Earth's Best is my favorite) for times when you have to throw food in a bag for travel or when the baby is rejecting all your carefully prepared homemade purees.

                              1. re: Pia
                                d
                                dagwood Jan 26, 2010 08:43 PM

                                I second the recommendation for Super Baby Food. It came highly recommended to me and was very informative.

                                My daughter's first foods were mashed banana, and mashed avacado, thinned out with a little water. (I've heard the argument that starting with fruit will give a baby a sweet tooth, but I've found no truth in that. I fed my son based on my pediatricians guidelines, aka starting with rice cereal, then adding veg and other grains, and only after a while, fruit. His sweet tooth is MUCH stronger than my daughters.) After that, I would just steam her food on the stove in a little steamer basket, and then throw it in my blender, adding water as necessary. She went from her first taste of solids to eating completely from the meals I cooked for the rest of the family in about 6 months. For that small timeframe, I definitely don't think it warrants the purchase of a costly appliance. But, if it's worth it to you, it might be.

                                Congratulations, and best of luck! What a lucky little baby whose mama is already putting so much thought into what to feed the little munchkin. :)

                            2. l
                              LauraGrace Jan 26, 2010 05:02 AM

                              I agree, there is absolutely no need to buy a special appliance -- I didn't know there even was such a thing! You need two things to make baby food: something to cook the stuff in, and something to smash it up with. For "first foods," you want something pretty thin and smooth, so you can pass stuff through a sieve to get any skins or fibrous bits out.

                              Many of my friends choose avocado as an early food, because it's full of good fats and is nutritionally close to breastmilk. Orange veggies are common first foods -- sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, etc. -- but don't be afraid to start with something a little more unusual like avocado, especially if you've been breastfeeding. Breastfed babies are accustomed to flavors and (in my experience) can be turned off by flavorless stuff like commercial rice cereal and green beans. For fruits, bananas are a good first choice, and stone fruits (peaches, apricots, etc.). You can really skip the "baby food" aisle altogether if you want. There's no need to buy special cereals -- you can even make rice cereal yourself, just by pureeing brown rice until very smooth.

                              The one thing that surprised me was the no-strawberry rule. I'm sure you know that but it caught me off guard!

                              You can make baby food from frozen fruit and veg as well, especially when there's not a lot in season.

                              Oh, and gordeaux's suggestion for freezing stuff in ice cube trays is a great idea.

                              Good luck! :)

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: LauraGrace
                                d
                                DGresh Jan 26, 2010 05:56 AM

                                and just another point about it being unnecessary to get a special appliance; I'm in no way against modern conveniences-- but I had my first food processor for 20 some years till it broke; now I've had it's replacement for 5 or 6 and expect to have it another 15 or more. But your baby will be eating "mushed up food" for a few months! I know it seems like a whole new stage and world right now, but when yours are teenagers like mine are, you'll barely remember this "blip" in the grand scheme of things.

                                1. re: LauraGrace
                                  JEN10 Jan 26, 2010 05:59 AM

                                  All really good advice! I think I did the sweet potatoes first. Her first meat was a little chicken left on a leg bone, great when teething.

                                  1. re: LauraGrace
                                    Scrapironchef Jan 26, 2010 12:23 PM

                                    Another vote for not buying anything special, if you already have a food processor you're set.

                                    My 1yo started with homemade brown rice cereal, roasted butternut squash, roasted sweet potatoes and what may be his favorite food, avocadoes. I'd fire up the oven and roast up anything I thought he'd like, peel and run through the food processor. I do large batches and freeze in ice cube trays, once frozen transfer to zip lock bags and LABEL them. All those orange cubes start to look alike. This is really not a lot of work when you make large batches and it will keep for a couple of months. If you make a couple of different types once a week for a few weeks, you'll end up with plenty pretty quickly.

                                    I haven't bought any specific baby food, even buying top end organic vegetables comes out cheaper when you make your own. I did splurge and by $10 worth of covered ice cube trays and some small plastic containers to fit in his diaper bag to carry travel meals in.

                                    Other faves - polenta, Trader Joe's plain instant oatmeal (about a 1/3 of a packet), Cheerios Cheerios Cheerios, rotisserie chicken, char siu, tofu, whole wheat pasta, corn, peas, good ham, edamame and practically everything we can get near his mouth. He's had a reaction to some dairy so we're keeping him away form that for awhile although he likes it when he has it. He's got a genetic sensitivity to fava beans, weird but specific, but he likes most others.

                                    This really isn't hard, I bought a book called "Super Baby Food" by Ruth Yaron, full of good guidelines, techniques and recipes. It leans toward vegetarian so you have to allow for that if you're not.

                                  2. g
                                    gordeaux Jan 26, 2010 04:38 AM

                                    There are PLENTY of websites and books on this subject matter.
                                    I got the beaba as a gift, and I recommend it, because it's super convenient, but really, it's just a steamer and a food processor. Sift through the info at your fingertips, and decide what foods you'll start with. I think we started with cereal, and then sweet potato was the actual first "food" food. I would highly suggest making decent sized batches and freezing the food in ice cube trays, and then storing those cubes in ziplock bags. When it's meal time, grab a few cubes, and microwave them to warm them up. Jr is now 13 months, and pretty much eats anything, but at mealtime, we still grab a meat cube, a veggie cube, and a starch cube for him.

                                    1. d
                                      DGresh Jan 26, 2010 04:02 AM

                                      No do not buy a special purpose device. I mean, our grandmas used a fork, right? As for what to start with I dare say your pediatrician may be a better source than all of us here, who are each going to tell you something different. But there's nothing wrong with what you propose. The usual mantra is one food at a time, waiting a few days between, to detect any possible allergies.

                                      Show Hidden Posts