When baby arrives, it’s all very overwhelming at first; just when you’ve got it figured out, it’s time for a new challenge. At around six months it’s time to introduce the baby to solid food.
Where to start
Yes, it’s much easier to stock up on a bunch of little jars and feed your baby when and what he likes, and your choices might vary depending on where you live. But even if you’ve never paid attention to the ingredient labels on the food you buy, now is the time to do it. You might be disappointed–even shocked–to find that even respected brands add sugar–and in some cases even salt–to baby food. In babies under 12 months of age, kidneys haven’t developed enough to process more than about 1g of salt (400 mg sodium) a day; no salt should be added to their food at all. It’s good to avoid added refined sugar as well. In addition to starting kids on the road to bad eating habits and sugar dependency, it promotes tooth decay and contributes to childhood obesity and other health problems.
The better choice
Make your own baby food. It’s very easy and doesn’t take much time, and you know exactly what’s going into your baby’s food. You don’t even need any special equipment or kitchen appliances, the most basic fork can do the job, but a blender or food processor will make it easier for you. You’ll need a little persistence and patience at first–introducing anything new to your baby is a potential challenge. So make it fun for both of you.
- You may want to start with one or two simple ingredients like carrots and squash and see how your baby reacts. He may spit it right out at you; just try again the next day. You should also try to detect any possible allergies: early on feed your baby the same baby food for 3 or 4 consecutive days. If you see that he develops any rashes, vomits repeatedly or shows any signs of allergic reaction, consult your pediatrician immediately.
- When choosing your produce, opt for organic or locally grown, if possible. See our organic guide to selecting fruit and veggies. When selecting rice or pasta, opt for whole grain to maximize fiber and nutrient benefits.
- Experiment with different textures: from very smooth to chunky. Remember that the amounts of each ingredient in our recipes are only recommendations. If you observe that your baby favors certain items, increase the amount of that ingredient and play with the proportions.
- Introduce simple spices and herbs (such as oregano, cinnamon, basil or curry) so your baby develops a taste for a range of different flavors.
- As your baby grows, you’ll find it easier to make baby food from the meals you make for your family. Just stick to the habit of adding salt on your own plate or separate a portion of food for your baby before you add salt to the cooking pot (at least until age four).
- Enjoy the process and get creative!
A few homemade baby food recipes to get you started:
1. Our first homemade baby food recipe with just three ingredients-carrots, pumpkin and rice and some added spices: See vegetables baby food recipe.
2. Our second homemade baby food recipe introduces tofu to babies. Since tofu is a protein just like meats and egg yolks, most pediatricians recommend that you include it in your baby’s diet after 8 months of age to make sure your baby can digest it properly. Also, if your pediatrician has diagnosed your baby with an allergy to soy, you should avoid using tofu, as it’s an unfermented soy product. See tofu baby food recipe.
3. Our homemade pear sauce recipe–a great applesauce alternative–without added sugar: See pear sauce recipe.
4. Another good option: Make baby food from homemade soups. Here are a few healthy soup recipes to give you some inspiration.