What is baby food?
Baby food is simply food that's appropriate for your baby.
There are three ways of giving your baby solids:
1 Spoon feeding with purees - this means giving your baby food that has blended into a puree. You'll start with smooth fruit and vegetable purees and progress to lumpier textures with meat and more sophisticated tastes, then mashed food and finally chopped versions of adult food
2 Baby Led Weaning - your baby leads the way in this method, discovering soft versions of family food, such as baked vegetables and fruit and eating when you eat. There's not a puree in sight!
3 Mixed - you give your baby some purees but also introducing soft, solid finger food from the very start of weaning
Expert advice on making baby food
"You want your baby to end up eating the same food as the rest of your family, so making your own baby food provides the opportunity to introduce him to your way of eating right from the start," says registered nutritionist Jo Travers.
"If you're pureeing first foods, you’ll want to make thin, smooth purees with no lumps, blending all the flavours together. As your baby gets older, it’s important to blend food in separate parts: for example, if you make a cottage pie with peas, blend the mince, mashed potato and peas separately, so you don’t end up with a bland beige mush. This helps your baby to explore the different tastes and textures within a meal."
8 safety guidelines when making baby food
Your baby's tummy is very sensitive and it's important to follow some simple advice to look after your baby's digestive system. Registered nutritionist Jo Travers explains:
- The most important rule is not to add salt to food. Your baby’s organs are not fully matured, so they can’t cope with much salt: limit his intake to less than 1g per day.
- Avoid adding sugar to any meals: use fruit such as grated apple to sweeten dishes.
- Honey must be avoided until 12 months as it can harbour bacteria that can be fatal to babies.
- Whole nuts shouldn’t be given as they’re a choking hazard.
- High-fibre foods aren't as good as you might think: wholemeal bread, pasta and brown rice fill babies up before they've taken in enough nutrients, so it’s best to go for white versions in the early months.
- Eggs must be well-cooked until your baby is 12 months.
- Avoid unpasteurised cheese due to the bacteria some of these may contain.
- Energy-dense foods are best - babies have very small tummies but need a lot of energy, which is why energy dense foods are best. Avoid using low-fat versions of foods and ingredients (for example, semi-skimmed milk, fat-free yoghurt and reduced fat cheese) as they don’t have enough energy to meet your growing baby’s needs, and don’t contain all the necessary fat-soluble vitamins that he requires.
How to make a baby puree
- Wash and scrub the vegetables or fruit you’re using.
- Peel and chop into chunky pieces.
- Put the pieces into a thick-bottomed saucepan and cover with water. Don’t add salt or sugar.
- Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the pieces are tender when poked with a knife.
- Strain off the cooking water and keep it. Puree the softened fruit or vegetables with a blender. Add some of the cooking water (or your baby’s milk if you’re concerned he’s not drinking enough milk) to make the puree thinner if desired.
What are the best purees for my baby?
When you’re starting out (and especially before 6 months), stick to fruit and vegetables, either on their own or a combination of two or more – you can blend fruit and veg together, although serve vegetables on their own at times. Once your baby is over 6 months you can add other ingredients to his purees, such as lean meat, poultry, fish, lentils, pasta, cheese and milk, and move on from a smooth consistency to a chunkier mash.
How to make soft roasted vegetables for Baby Led Weaning
- Choose a selection of root vegetables, such as parsnips and sweet potatoes
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4
- Wash the root vegetables vigorously, peel or scrape and cut into long chunks or strips
- Grease a baking tray, place on the vegetables and brush them with the olive oil until evenly coated
- Roast in the oven for 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender when pierced with a fork
What are the best first finger foods?
- Banana - Sweet and soft, which needs no cooking: just slice it in half down the middle, and then in half again, so it fits your baby’s fist
- Melon - Another no-cook fruit, melon is full of a substance called citrulline, which supports the immune system. Make sure it’s ripe so it’s easy to gum
- Carrot - Cut into batons and steamed or boiled or baked until soft, carrots are one of the sweetest vegetables and so are likely to appeal to weaning babies
- Toast - A finger of toast is a great convenience food for your baby, either as a snack or as part of a meal, and the carb content will provide energy
How our mums make their baby food
"With my last one I used to steam any fruit or veg then puree them," says Hayley_l. "Chicken is good but it takes ages to puree down.
"I used to have a freezer full of ice cube trays which were then transferred into freezer bags and all labelled, once she had got used to the taste of them alone I used to mix them together, cant see myself being that organised this time."
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Oscar2 adds: "I use mostly homemade for my LO, i make casseroles in the slow cooker over 24 hours, so its all lovely soft and tender - I throw in whatever meat and veg we have, then i only have to put a potato in the microwave and he has a meal.
"I also use lots of frozen veg for ease - they are no less good for him. We aren't very into fish but i know he needs to have it so i have been known to cook some 100% cod fish fingers and cut the batter off! He loves them!
"I did wait till 6 months to wean LO and I know that for people weaning earlier it would be tricky to give some of the above, but I didn't find it too much hassle in the first stages pureeing a bit of fruit and veg and filling up ice cube trays - it was short lived.
"I'm not a great cook by any means but it honestly doesn't feel much hassle at all and LO gets a much greater range of tastes lots of fresh fruit and veg and we save money.x"
Dos and don'ts when making baby food
- Do wash your hands before cooking and before feeding your baby.
- Do disinfect kitchen surfaces before preparing food.
- Do continue to sterilise bottles until 12 months.
- Do use separate chopping boards and utensils for raw meat and fish to avoid contaminating other ingredients.
- Do change dishcloths and tea towels regularly.
- Do make sure food is cooked or reheated until it’s piping hot right through, and then cool before serving.
- Do store raw meat on the bottom shelf of the fridge so juices can’t drip down onto other foods.
- Don’t allow pets to sit on kitchen work surfaces
- Don’t prepare food when you’re ill; if you can’t avoid it, wear disposable gloves and move away from food prep areas if you need to cough or sneeze
- Don’t use ingredients that have passed their use-by date
- Don’t worry about sterilising feeding equipment after six months
- Don’t wear jewellery such as rings or watches while preparing food
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