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Homemade Baby Food

Freshly made butternut squash baby food.

Freshly made butternut squash baby food.
Carol Ducker, ©2020, Clemson University Extension

Moms and dads are busy people, and some may wonder if it is worth the time it takes to make homemade baby food over the convenience of buying store-bought baby food. There are considerations to make with this decision. Is my baby old enough and ready for solid food? Will my baby show any allergic reaction to a newly introduced fruit or vegetable? What are the food safety concerns with making my baby food? Below are a few ideas to help with your decision.

Ready for Food

By the ages of four to six months old, most babies are ready to begin solid foods as a complement to breast-feeding or formula-feeding. Per the mayoclinic.org, The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast milk or formula-feeding for the first six months after birth and checking with your pediatrician before introducing any solid food or cereals to your baby. If your baby is ready for solid foods, you’ll want to add only one new food at a time for several days to monitor for any possible allergic reaction.

Advantages

One major advantage of homemade baby food is cost-effectiveness. By making your baby food, you are only paying for the ingredients you are using. You are not paying for processing, packaging, and marketing. It is estimated that making your baby food costs about one-third of the amount of buying commercial baby food. One jar of baby food costs around fifty cents. If your baby eats three jars per day, that equates to approximately forty-five dollars per month.

Another advantage is that homemade baby food is much less processed. You are in control of the ingredients and flavors, and you do not have to worry about added preservatives. Store-bought varieties of jarred fruits and vegetables have to be heated to extreme temperatures during processing to kill any bacteria. When you make homemade baby food, you provide your baby with more nutrients from the food itself because you only steam or roast the fruits and vegetables and then use, refrigerate, or freeze them. This results in foods holding more of their original vitamins and minerals. For more information on how-to safely preparing homemade baby food, go to Foodsafety.gov.

The Best of Both Worlds

If you do decide on some homemade baby foods, plan a time in your schedule to prepare the fruits or vegetables by steaming or roasting, not boiling them. After they cool, puree in a blender or mash with a fork or potato masher and add a small amount of breast milk, formula, or water until you have reached your desired consistency. Do not add any salt or sugar to these foods. After cooking, the foods can be refrigerated in small containers or frozen individually in ice trays and then transferred into zip-top bags for up to three months of storage. These foods can then be taken out and thawed in the refrigerator and served at room temperature at feeding time.

There is no denying the convenience and simplicity of store-bought baby food. Keeping jarred fruits and vegetables on hand for when you are dining out or running on a tight schedule is certainly a good idea since these foods do not have to be refrigerated, and food safety concerns will not be an issue.

A good time to serve your homemade baby food is when you and your family have planned on dining in at home. This allows your baby to experience a different variety of vegetables and fruits. Your baby will also be able to enjoy new flavors and textures and may grow to have a wider range of tastes in general.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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