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 Out of date much?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The American Academy of Pediatrics manual says (keep in mind that my edition is ten years out of date, but I'm pretty sure this is the same as the leaflet the pediatrician gave me when the twins were babies) that at 8 months, babies can start having yogurt,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.)
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