Discover insider tips from experts and real moms for feeding your little one solids. Plus, check out must-have gear picks to get your kitchen baby-ready.
The day your baby starts eating solids is an important milestone, and you can help set him or her up on the path to healthy eating by making your own. "Going from all milk or formula to real food can be daunting," says Lisa Courtois, senior product manager at Béaba, a baby-food product company based in Hoboken, New Jersey. "Puréeing fresh, local, and organic produce and meat—rather than using canned baby food—lets you know exactly what's in the food your child is eating."
By the time your baby is five or six months old, it's a good idea to put your baby's high chair next to the dinner table when your family eats. If he watches your mouth as you chew or reaches for food, he's probably ready to try some purees.
DIY Baby Food
"There's no reason not to make your own baby food because it's so cheap and easy," says Sara Preville, 33, mother to two-year old Nicholas and soon-to-be mom to baby number two. "It's not like making a whole other meal for your family, because making baby food calls for using only one ingredient. Just get a hand blender and mash up veggies like a sweet potato or fruit like an apple, and add water if it's not getting creamy enough." A soupy consistency is best for babies just starting out on food, while you can mix up chunkier textures for toddlers.
Having the right gear makes whipping up fresh, delicious baby food even easier. If you know you're going to want to make your own when you're pregnant, try registering for a baby food maker or blender for your baby shower. "I use Béaba's BabyCook, and it's super easy because it lets you steam, purée, and reheat the food all right in one small machine," says Bindu Swami, 33, mother to 22-month old daughter Ava. "We also have the Vitamix blender, and that's good if you want to create bigger batches of pureed foods that you can also serve for the rest of your family at dinner."
Go for Smart Storage
If you don't want to cook baby food every single day, try doing it in bulk one to three times a week. "You can make big batches all at once and freeze individual portions in ice cube trays," says Sara. "One sweet potato could make five or six individual baby-food portions, so that batch can last you all week!"
Make storing baby food easy by getting containers that have leak-proof lids so you can throw them in your diaper bag, and that can also be used for warming. Remember to make sure that any baby food containers you're using are BPA, phthalate and lead free, recommends Courtois.
"Small, 6.5-ounce glass containers, like the kind Libbey makes, are a great alternative to plastic containers, and you can easily pop off the lid and place it directly into the BabyCook to defrost your food," says Bindu.
Don't leave baby food containers on the counter to defrost because dangerous bacteria grows most rapidly between 40 degrees and 140 degrees—and room temperature is right in the middle of that range. "Protect your baby from illness by putting items in the fridge to defrost if you don't have a baby food maker like the BabyCook," says Courtois.
Spice Things Up
Don't be afraid to experiment! If your baby is spitting out a broccoli puree, try adding a quarter of an apple for sweetness. "Making your own baby food can expose kids to a variety of flavors early on," says Courtois. "Make sure you're using foods that can be found at your family's table, including favorite spices and herbs. This way, your baby is less likely to grow up to be a picky eater."
Try adding new flavors slowly so you can better pinpoint your baby's likes and dislikes or any food intolerances. "I introduced my son Spencer to baby cereal when he was five months old, and started adding one type of vegetable at a time two weeks later," says Holly Grunsell Arrindell; 41. "As he's getting older, I have to be more creative by giving his food more flavor to keep him excited. For example, I dip organic steamed broccoli in applesauce or sprinkle cinnamon in sweet potato puree. I want the best for my son, and I believe nutrition is a big part if that."
Get Your Gear On
Here are the top baby-food making tools to help simplify your life and get your little one on the path to healthy eating.
Béaba Babycook: This all-in-one baby food maker lets you create your own baby food in just 15 minutes from start to finish. First, it steam cooks the food of your choice, from fruit to vegetables to raw meats. Next, the blending function lets you control the texture, from soupy to chunky. You can even use it to defrost or reheat baby food you've made ahead of time and frozen for storage. ($119; amazon.com)
Vitamix 5200: The Vitamix is an excellent choice if you're looking to invest in a high quality, multi-tasking blender that allows you to easily whip up baby food, as well as purees, smoothies, soups, and even ice cream for the entire family. It cuts back on waste and maximizes nutrition because the machine pulverizes seeds, stems, skin, and all. The shatterproof container is BPA free. ($449; vitamix.com).
Béaba Multiportion Freezer Tray: You could use plain old ice cube trays for storing baby food (as long as they're PBA-free!), but why would you want to when you could have these silicone trays with airtight plastic lids to help safeguard flavor (and spills)? Each tray has seven separate two-ounce compartments for perfect individual portion sizes, and they come in fun colors such as purple and orange. ($24.99; buybuybaby,com)
Wean Cubes: These eco-friendly, leak-proof containers hold four liquid ounces so you can easily carry an extra serving with you in your diaper bag without having to pack multiple containers. Plus, the tempered glass containers are dishwasher and microwave safe. ($22.99 for a pack of four; vine.com)
Beaba Babypote: Fill this reusable silicone pouch with baby food and your little one can ditch the spoon. The fun container holds five ounces and makes it easy (and less messy!) for your baby to feed herself. ($14.98; diapers.com)