January 27, 2008

Making Baby Food: Encore!

After the post I did about homemade baby food, there were requests for more info. And now suddenly I am a little anxious about seeming to present myself as some kind of expert, because here is how I got started making baby food: I read the ingredients list on a jar of Gerber peas and thought "Peas, water. I think I can combine peas and water for less than 50 cents a jar." So I cooked some peas and ground them up with some water, and voila! Easy-peasy!

I did consult my baby-care manual first: it's Caring for Your Baby and Young Child, by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and I've linked to the most recent edition but my copy is from 1998. Out of date much? But when I was consulting it in 1999, it was CUTTING EDGE, BABY. It said that the following foods should NOT be made at home because of possible high levels of nitrates: beets, turnips, carrots, collard greens, and spinach. Not that I would have been whipping up a big batch of turnips anyway, but it's good to know. (I still use frozen mixed-vegetable blends that contain carrots.)


Here are some of the blends I make most often:

1) Mixed vegetable blends. Usually I get the kind that has green beans, green peas, carrots, and corn. Or sometimes I get a different assortment, like broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, carrots, and lima beans. Exciting!

2) Single vegetable plus single legume: green peas and chick peas, or green beans and kidney beans, or squash and great northern beans, or whatever. You can use dried beans, but then you have to soak them and cook them for a long time, so I use canned.

3) Mixed berries. The first time I tried this, it gelled up worse than jelly and was impossible to feed to the baby without re-blendering it. If you add some applesauce (about a cup) and some infant cereal (half a cup or so) to it in the blender, it will stay sauce-ish.

4) Chicken. Poach it (half-submerge chicken breasts in a lidded skillet of water and boil until cooked), cut it into cubes, and put it in the blender. I use boneless skinless chicken breasts. It blended up a LOT more easily than I'd thought it would. I freeze this in ice-cube trays because I want smaller portions. When feeding it to the baby, I mix it with a vegetable.


Okay! Answers to other questions:

The American Academy of Pediatrics manual says (keep in mind that my edition is ten years out of date, but I'm pretty sure this is the same as the leaflet the pediatrician gave me when the twins were babies) that at 8 months, babies can start having yogurt, cottage cheese, and cooked egg yolk. You can tip the raw white out of the shell and scramble just the yolk, or you can pick the yolk out of a hardboiled egg. This works out awesome if you yourself are on a diet and want only the whites.

I mix baby food with infant cereal and water: roughly half vegetable/fruit and half cereal/water. I started 6-month-old Henry on one meal a day of about a tablespoon of thin-applesauce-consistency food, and as soon as he got the hang of it I rapidly increased to a half-cup or so, and then to more like three-quarters of a cup. He's nearly 8 months now, and recently I changed to two feedings a day of about a half cup each (more if he's yolfing it down), and he's eating it at more of a thick-applesauce consistency. I don't think there are any firm rules on how much or how often or what proportions. I believe I must take it slower than average, based on the pediatrician's mistaken assumptions about what the baby is eating.

The AAP book says that banana can be fed to the baby raw, but other foods should be cooked until soft, so I do cook fruits, yes, but not for long. (My guess is that there are other schools of thought on this, and I have no doubt the other schools are just as awesome and that their school cheers are just as peppy.) See above about adding applesauce (and I also add infant cereal) to the blender to avoid gelling. And don't add much water to the cooking pan, because the fruit has a surprising amount of water in it.

I add some water to meat to make it blend smoothly, but I don't add anything else to it. I didn't even try meats until my third and fourth children, because it seemed so gross to do it (meat in the blender----HORK), and also it seemed like the meat wouldn't blend smoothly. But I used white-meat chicken and it blended gorgeously, and it was WAY less gross than those cat-food-scented jars of meat baby food. (And so much cheaper, you can't even believe it.)

I'm not sure what the freezer lifespan is. We go through it pretty fast, so it hasn't been an issue. My freezer says that soups can be frozen for one month, and that seems like a nice rough estimate--but I suspect the food would be fine for longer amounts of time.

No, I don't make all my own baby food. I often buy the fruits, because it's not as big a savings to make fruits. You can make a huge quantity of vegetables for cheap, cheap, cheap, but fruits are more labor and more money for less yield. I buy big jars of applesauce, and I mash up banana with a fork, and I buy a few jars of fruit baby food. I also buy carrot baby food, because of the nitrate problem my AAP manual mentioned. And I buy baby food to have on hand for convenience (especially with the twins, there were times when I ran out of chow), and for keeping indefinitely in the diaper bag. (The homemade stuff should be kept frozen or refrigerated until you're ready to feed it to the baby.)

Speaking of out-of-date, here's a picture of Henry from Christmas.

31 comments:

Kristin C. said...

Thanks for the great Encore! I am totally saving this post in my "baby" file. So when I lose all this weight I can put back on with a pregnancy. Yippee!

bunnybea said...

I love that AAP book! My copy is pretty new and says last updated May 2005. The what not to make info hasn't really changed.

A friend who made all her own baby food also used the book First Meals by Annabel Karmel. Good book with great recipes.

Unfortunately, my son didn't really like baby food and I was told to give him regular food cut up or slightly smashed when he was nine months. So I didn't get a big chance to make my own food. Maybe next time!

mpotter said...

thank you thank you thank you.
i just told The Mr. that i think i may register for a small food processor from target w/ all my baby stuff.
i may try to make my own food, just to save some money.

so thanks for the step by step.
i'll have to remember this in about a year or so......

Beth Fish said...

You can do avocado raw too - it was the only thing Mia would eat for months, despite my hours of slaving over sweet potatoes and such. Slice, peel, throw in blender with some water, freeze. For older babies, you can just mash it with a fork like a banana. I bought them in bulk at Costco where they are cheap.

Mairzy said...

Oooh, Henry! What a gorgeous baby! The baby-food stuff was nice and helpful and informative, but HENRY! I could eat HIM!

donna said...

I did avocado too but I would just mash it up as I used it, not in advance. I always thought it would turn brown, but Beth did it successfully so maybe not. I'll file that away if I have another one.

Carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash - those were so easy and cheep to do. A bunch of organic carrots cost me less than $1 and made I think two full ice cube trays. I also made broccoli and mixed it with the carrot or the sweet potato to sweeten it. Pay no attention the color it turns.

I know the AAP differs but our doctor said that since there is no history of egg allergy on either side of the family, we could give her whole scrambled egg (as long as we fed her nothing else new for a few days and watched her carefully) so if you want to try it, ask your own pediatrician for their input.

It may seem all tree hugger earth mother to make your own food, but it's so easy and so cheap and you know what you are getting.

donna said...

Oh! And about those foods you aren't supposed to make at home... I asked our pediatrician and he said that 1) there is only a very small group of people who genetically have issue with the things in soil that could cause a problem (I believe they are mostly African-American but I can't remember now) and 2) that the soil thing is only an issue in some parts of the country. So for most people it IS safe to cook those things at home, but ask your doctor first, as they will probably know for sure what the rule is for your part of the country and your genetic background.

Mimi said...

Thanks for all the tips. I kinda blindly tried making my own baby food when Ollie was a baby, but never did a good job of it. I'm definetly going to do better with making it when baby Everett is ready for solids... thanks to you!
Gee, I never thought of mixing foods together for freezing. What a dum-dum am I!

Mommy Daisy said...

Good tips. I will keep them in mind for the next/future baby. Also, I completely lost any train of thought after that photo. Aww, adorable baby. :D He is sure growing up.

Stacie said...

I remember when I looked at the large jars of applesauce and thought, "Holy crap. I'm a sleep deprived idiot. Have I really been paying 69 cents a jar for organic applesauce in small jars when a large jar of organic applesauce is $2.49 and occasionally even on sale?"

I made veggie food mostly too.

Swistle said...

Donna- Good point! And that explains why one pediatrician I talked to had never even HEARD of it, and the other one said, "Oh....yeah....but I wouldn't worry about it." Of course I DO worry, but I worry about EVERYTHING.

Swistle said...

Bunnybea- Oh, good, I'm glad someone could check a more recent edition. I thought I might be saying something like, "And watch out for 8 Tracks! Very dangerous!"

Omaha Mama said...

I wish I had me a baby to try all of these great ideas on! Also because look at your cutie patootie in his Santa hat. Also because my twenty month old is swearing at me right now in his very own language.

Sam said...

I made all of Sams' baby food and I followed a book called- Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron. It had some great recipes and even does now for him as a toddler. It has freezing length guidelines and a lot more. I am sure there are other great books out there but this one helped me a lot. I use to make all of his food on a Sunday night and freeze it for the next 2 weeks. It was easy, inexpensive and great knowing exactly what he was eating:)

Amy said...

Very, very good tips, Swistle. Thank you!

One more question: How long do you do about mashing up the food (bananas, avocado, etc...?) My babies are 10 1/2 months and have a few teeth, and seem to be doing fine with diced fruit and such. Am I being too adventurous? It's just that it's sooooo much easier to let them feed themselves the diced food than me having to spoon-feed both of them mashed food. You feel me?

They're really into sweet potato fries these days. So easy...just toss in EVOO and sprinkle with salt, then bake at 400 for 10 minutes on each side. Yum! They're soft, too, so perfect finger food.

Swistle said...

Amy- As soon as they're ready for diced, I stop the mashed. Less work = better!

Jess said...

When you freeze it do you thaw it in the fridge or just microwave it? Great idea!

tulipmom said...

Thanks for the Encore! I will be filing this info for use with Tulipbaby.

the new girl said...

Awesome, Swistle.
Thanks for the info. I think that I'm taking it even slower than you are and I'm just not sure what's what. I'm going to get the book that you recommended.

Thanks again

Swistle said...

Jess- I TRY to remember, each time I take a container of food out of the fridge, to put in a new one from the freezer. But if I don't remember, I microwave.

Sam said...

Hooray! Thanks for the encore post. Thomas has embarked into the world of mashed up food - and I really do want to make the majority of what he eats. We have a small freezer, so I can't make TOO much ahead - but tonight I bought some frozen peas! But then couldn't find ANY chickpeas. (We don't have a SuperYourBoyfriend, but I will be going to the grocery store at least seven times this week, I'm sure...) Can't wait to try all your fabulous advice.

el-e-e said...

YAY!! I am also totally saving these posts. My suggestion is that you title your first book FREEZER GENIUS.

(Not to take away from all the other kinds of genius you are, but you know. Gotta have a Tagline.)

Also I would like one Henry, please. Box him up and send him right to me kthanks.

Jen said...

oh. that boy is too cute. seriously. it hurts a little.

also, good good info about babyfooding. i spent my sunday boiling and blending and it was mighty satisfying. i even tasted the stuff i was making and other than needing salt (which i didn't add) it tasted pretty darned good.

i mixed zucchini, peas and green beans each with a few spoonfuls of kidney beans for a little extra protein. then i got crazy and mixed in cooked brown rice with my fruits - i used the frozen tropical mix and it was tasty. i know you're supposed to wait on citrus but our monkey is a fool for mandarin oranges so...

anyway, these posts gave me some great inspiration - thanks!

Alice said...

can someone explain to me why i read these posts SO CAREFULLY, each and every time, and i HAVE NO BABY? it's getting alarming. apparently my body feels that on some level, i should know how to care for a kid by age 27? and instructs me to READ EVERY WORD of EVERY POST having to do with infants. aaaaand.. GO. am weird. hi!

Natalie said...

Sounds like you are an expert to me, I just wish I had found you when my son was an infant.

Anonymous said...

I was so hoping you would do an Encore! I use the book Child of Mine- it is a great feeding/nutrition book with tips that can be used throughout infancy and toddlerhood. I would recommend it to everyone. With our 2 yo we started baby food just before 6 months and by 8 1/2 months she was self-feeding table-food only. I just got a new food processor (to use with the Deceptively Delicious cookbook so we can sneak more veggies into the 2yo) but I am TOTALLY going to make my 4 mo baby food now. Thanks for sharing how easy it is!

Audrey said...

According to our pediatrician, carrots and broccoli are OK as long as they are organic. I have several good baby food/foods that the family can eat that can be pureed for the wee one books that I find helpful; holler if you want titles!

Sheila Ann said...

You are right on Swistle! It's what I tell my patients!

Also freeze the puree in an ice cube tray and then pop the cubes out in a bag when frozen.

Make sure you don't can the baby food unless you really know what you are doing. I've taken care of two cases of infant botulism and it's a scary sight!

At nine months also make sure it's cultured dairy products!

Sheila- MommyMD!

Pregnantly Plump said...

I've been getting lots more adventurous with our baby food as well. Today I made him lentils with carrots and green beans (oh, this stuff looks gross!) and black beans with brown rice.
I tried pureeing ground beef and it was the most disgusting stuff ever. Little Elvis didn't like it, and I definitely didn't push it on him. That's interesting about the chicken breasts, though. I'll have to try that!

Pann said...

I think that as long as you're making your own baby food, you might want to consider getting organic produce.

I go with the theory that babies are smaller than big people, so perhaps even small amounts of pesticides might be bad for them. Plus, organic produce has been shown to actually be more nutritious than conventionally grown produce.

Just my two cents.

Wish I knew all this stuff when my kids were babies!

Emblita said...

My kiddo, at 17 months, has never ever wanted to eat cooked and mashed up vegetables... I tried... I really really did, but to no avail. Then he got teeth and since then he will attack the salad bowl and point at vegetables as they're being prepared for said salad and insist on getting some. Yup, my kid, lover of raw vegetables.
Probably bad for him or something, but man... does he love them.