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How do You Make Your Own Baby Food?
I have had the experience of weaning two very different babies with a large age gap in between. When I thought it was easy to wean a baby onto solids with my son, twelve years later it was a different story with my daughter.
When my boy was three months old, he was a hungry baby. Being formula fed, I had switched him to a thicker one but even on full bottles I knew he was ready for solids. The government guidelines for weaning were from four months old and he couldn't wait!
The recommended age for giving food then changed to six months, as research suggests baby's digestive systems can cope better. It can also make the process easier, as by then they can hold their heads up and sit in a highchair for meals. They could potentially go from pureed first foods to a larger variety of pureed, mashed or finger food in a shorter space of time - depending on the individual baby of course!
With most things, the whole weaning thing has changed over the years. In days gone by, Mothers were told to give baby rice and rusk from six weeks, then three months and so on. As times change, research has given health professionals a better idea on the benefits all round.
Weaning though is all about trial and error, first tastes, face pulling and messy floors. It will happen so it's best to go along with it. Never push your baby to have what he or she doesn't want. The first year is about experimenting and having fun, so baby will have a positive relationship with food. Their main source of food is from their milk to start with - as long as the have a healthy balanced diet and is putting weight on steadily.
Give your Baby the Right Food
When you start to try your baby with food, it will just be a spoon or two to get them used to the taste and the feel of it. They should be ready to swallow the food, but may push it out again.
If they are not ready then simply wait a few days then try again. It may be a case of just not liking what you've given them!
There are different techniques with weaning. You could give them soft pureed food such as baby rice (comes as a powder in a packet and is mixed with formula or breast milk) and spoon feed him or her. Or you could try Baby Led weaning, where baby feeds his or herself food such as cooked carrot sticks, broccoli florets and so on.
Spoon feeding your baby means you can see the amount they have eaten, and possibly less mess! While baby led weaning means baby becomes more independent with feeding and confident with trying a range of foods put in front of them. The downside will be more mess and the difficulty with monitoring what they are eating.
I did a mixture of both spoon feeding and baby led with both of my children and when I was a childminder.
You can try a variety of food, but some things they should avoid. These are foods with:
- Too much salt
- Too much sugar
- Artificial additives
- Honey (under 12 months)
- Cow’s milk as a drink (under 12 months), but fine to add to food from six months if not intolerant
- Raw egg
- Shell fish, raw fish
- Ripened cheeses
- Anything which will cause choking (such as nuts)
- Gluten under six months
The Advantages of Making Your Own Baby Food
Pureed first foods are smooth and free of lumps, but trying baby with slightly more textured food will help with chewing and exploring textures and flavours. Some babies prefer lump-free food (especially if they are teething), while others are happy to experiment.
There are a range of ready made foods available for each stage of weaning. They are convenient to buy when you are out and about, but there are advantages to making up your own baby food. You can make in bulk and freeze them (use ice cube trays when baby is on first tastes and pop out a cube of frozen food to defrost), or put them in pots or jars, label with the date and what the food is and put in the fridge. Use within a couple of days.
Making your own means:
- You know exactly what is in the food
- You can vary the recipe to suit your baby’s taste
- It will save you money
- You can try you baby with a wide variety of food
One tip I have learned since having my baby girl (who is going through the first stage of weaning) is, if your baby doesn't like the combination of food you give them, try them with shop bought food. My daughter isn't too keen on bits of broccoli, but enjoys the pureed pouches. So I make her favourite flavours which saves me money. For example, she likes anything sweet and will eat the pouches which are sweet vegetables (sweet potato and carrot) mixed with fruit. I cook up the veg and puree it down with a splash of natural apple juice and it is almost the same.
How Do I Puree Food?
If you are going to puree your baby food, either use a hand held blender (really quick and easy to do) or put your batches into a food processor.
Whiz up the food to make it lump free (add more water or milk for a smoother texture), or stop when there are still small lumps when your baby is ready for textures.
You could also use a sieve once you've cooked your food.
Cook your food as you would normally, and put it together to blend down. Just don't add salt, too much sugar, adult gravy or stock cubes. If you want to add flavours then use herbs such as coriander or parsley, or even mild spices or garlic. It's trial and error!
What Foods To Give
This is a time to have fun and experiment. Try not to worry if your baby won't eat what you give them, as you might just need to adapt your recipe (either leave out an ingredient, or add something else).
If your baby likes baby rice, start adding mashed banana to it, or blended mango and strawberry.
Make up some powdered custard, but add pureed apple instead of sugar. Use naturally sweet apples, rather than sour ones.
Try vegetables such as swede, carrot and pumpkin. Or cauliflower and broccoli cheese, cooked white fish with mashed potato, or cooked chicken with rice and apricot.
It will depend on your baby when they will start to eat two or three times a day. My daughter has cereal or mashed banana for breakfast, she likes pureed fruit and vegetables for lunch and dinner, and will eat a few spoons of fromage frais or have a baby biscotti as a dessert, although I try not to encourage a lot of sugary food. She is beginning to adapt her tastes to more savoury dishes.
She has her bottles as she would normally. If she gets tired in the evening, she just doesn't bother with dinner, as long as she gets her milk.
Remember that if you are giving your baby finger food, make sure they are cooked through if need be and soft enough to chew.
Try cooked pasta or bread sticks and always stay with baby in case of choking.
Foods to try:
Vegetables - Carrot, sweet potato, swede, squash, cauliflower, peas, asparagus, aubergine
Fruit - Strawberries, avocado, tomatoes, melon, peaches, pears, apples, banana, pineapple, apricot
Pulses and Beans - Lentils, butter beans, chickpeas
Carbs - Rice, pasta, potatoes, couscous, porridge, toast, breadsticks
Desserts - Rice pudding, semolina, custard, yogurt
Mix fruit with vegetables or to sweeten puddings naturally. Or try pasta with a mild cheese sauce with courgette. Have a play with recipes and see what baby enjoys. Remember, what he or she likes this week might change next week!
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Recipes to Try For Baby
This is an old family favourite and palatable for babies.
Use a small or larger amount of ingredients, depending on how much you intend to freeze.
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 100g minced beef
- Half a tin of chopped tomatoes
- Quarter of a small onion, diced
- Quarter of a cup of spaghetti (you can also use any other pasta)
- 1 teaspoon of mixed Italian herbs
Bring half a pan of water to the boil in a small to medium sized saucepan.
Add the spaghetti and boil gently.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a separate saucepan. Add the diced onion and cook until softened and clear.
Add the minced beef and cook until browned throughout.
Add the tomatoes and stir well into the pan. Add the Italian herbs and a splash of water if it's too thick.
Simmer gently to ensure it is cooked throughout and the ingredients are softened.
Check the spaghetti and take off the heat once soft.
Drain the spaghetti and put together with the Bolognese sauce. Cool and blend until it is smooth.
Add more cooled boiled water if necessary.
If your baby enjoys the spaghetti Bolognese, try adding a touch of garlic . It will help him or her to adapt to the change in tastes.
If you are vegetarian you can also make this recipe without the minced beef.
For baby led weaning, cut the spaghetti in sizes for baby to hold and give him or her a spoon for the sauce. Use a bowl with a sucker on to stick to the table to reduce spills. Or try a combination and led baby eat the pasta, and feed them the bolognese!
Lots of bibs and splash mats for the floor may be needed!
Banana Rice Pudding
- Half small ripe banana
- 2oz pudding rice
- 600ml Baby’s usual milk
In a saucepan, place the pudding rice. Add the milk and bring to the boil.
Simmer and stir continuously while the rice softens and expands.
Add more milk if the rice starts to dry out so it is creamy rather than thick.
Once the rice is cooked, mash in the banana with a fork.
Cool and blend.
The banana is a healthy way to sweeten the rice pudding. You can try other fruit such as pureed cooked apple or mango.