Taking care of an infant is a lot of work. I will always remember how shockingly time-consuming it is to just feed, burp and change a newborn.
Though all new moms and dads are in a time crunch, I think parents should consider making at least some of their baby’s food. There are many benefits in doing so, and most baby-food preparation takes very little time.
An important first step in introducing solids to your infant is a discussion with your child’s pediatrician. They would be up-to-date on the latest recommendations and be familiar with your child and their development. Most pediatricians will recommend that a child begins eating solids around 6 months old, when they have good head control and can sit supported.
The way you begin serving solids — what foods, preparation methods and how often — can vary a lot. Some infants are more advanced with their fine-motor skills and will be ready to self-feed at an early age, while others are content to let you work the spoon. Other infants will be sensitive to texture and need to start with smooth purees. Do what works for you and your infant.
Making baby food is not necessary, as there are so many baby-food products on the market. Many foods, such as bananas, are easy and inexpensive to prepare. Besides saving money, another benefit of making baby food is that there is a wider variety of texture and flavor for your infant. Exposing babies to many foods, flavors and textures is ideal, since table food (adult food) also has a variety of those elements. You can choose between fresh or frozen foods, conventional or organic.
Before preparing any foods, be sure to thoroughly wash your hands, and clean all utensils and surfaces. Infants are at an increased risk for food-borne illness, and complications from illness are much more serious for infants and young children. This should not deter you though; just use common sense.
Most foods can be pureed. You do not necessarily need any fancy tools to puree baby food. If a food is soft enough, it can be mashed with a fork. This works well for bananas, avocados and sweet potatoes. For infants who are not ready to eat soft pieces of food, you can use a food processor or blender to puree things like oatmeal, peas and green beans.
It is a big time saver to freeze purees and use them throughout the week or month. To do this, fill an ice-cube tray with the puree and freeze it. Once frozen, put the cubes into a freezer bag or another freezer-safe container, and thaw the cubes as you are ready to use them. It is really convenient to have these purees frozen; if your baby doesn’t enjoy a puree you made due to taste or texture, wait a bit, and try again in a few weeks. Usually the baby will eat the food in time, so your effort will not be wasted.
Another feeding method is called baby-led weaning. This style omits purees and allows the baby to eat table food as they are able. Many soft foods, cut into manageable sizes to prevent choking, can be fed to a baby under supervision. Even if you are feeding your baby purees, it is important to also allow them to feed themselves. Frozen thawed peas, narrow pieces of cooked carrots and finely chopped ripe peaches or pears all work well for finger foods.
Follow your pediatrician’s recommendations for more allergenic foods, and avoid foods that are common choking hazards. To make your future mealtimes together easier, work toward giving your child your food when appropriate instead of simply moving them onto commercially prepared foods for older babies and toddlers. No matter what you feed your infant, be sure to take time to enjoy this milestone, as the time with them is fleeting, and mealtime should be enjoyable.
Jordy Kivett is a nutrition educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. For more information, contact her at 561-7450.