So, your baby is ready to start eating solids? Yay! Isn’t it exciting?!
When Dee started solid foods, I was ecstatic to watch her face try new flavors from just my breast-milk! I also wanted to cry because she definitely wasn’t my new baby anymore (and that is fine… It’s hard knowing your baby is getting so independent of you!). Either way, you’ve noticed all the signs and you have the go-ahead from baby’s doctor, it is time to get those tiny spoons ready!
But what are you supposed to put on that tiny spoon?
I went through this when starting Dee with real foods when she was 5 months old, and it’s not as easy as it sounds. So, I’ve put together this ultimate guide to baby food to help you do the right thing for not only your baby but for yourself too!
Don’t get overwhelmed! There is a lot of information covered here that will help you on your new journey of feeding your baby.
*Note: all information within this post is solely for educational purposes. We are in no way attempting to replace the advice of your pediatrician. We are in no way trying to tell you what to do with your child. This post is to inform and help others with our own experiences. You can read more in our Legal Pages. *
The How and Where
If you are a parent, then you should know by now that babies require a hefty set of equipment. Well, this is no different when introducing solid foods.
At the very least you are going to want; (links are to the same products we have and love!);
-baby food containers,
-washcloths (lots and lots of washcloths…).
I like to time it right so that she eats each of her meals when we eat ours. This makes her have a much more enjoyable experience eating and it is so much easier for me! (Once she was about 7 months old, she ate a big ole breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks a day! Your baby may eat less, but I can’t imagine any baby eating more than my piglet over here.)
An important thing to know when starting babies on solid foods is that breast milk or formula still needs to be their main source of nutrition. Again, you need to have a conversation about what this looks like for your family.
For Dee, we would give her her usual 7-8 ounces of breast milk (or more if she wanted!) and then fed her the solids. We did this so that she did not fill up on big girl foods before taking in the milk she needed. Guaranteed after meal time (for at least a half hour or so), she was so excited for independent play!
What NOT to Give Baby
There’s something that I’d like to bring to your attention before we dive right into all of baby’s new grub options; foods that baby should not have. Babies under 1 year cannot have these foods because they’re choking hazards, too hard on the tummy, or may make baby sick. Enough telling you what you’re about to read, here’s your list of foods baby should not have:
– Honey! (Honey may contain spores of a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum which can cause infant botulism. For this reason, it is highly recommended that babies are not given honey until they’re over a year old!)
– Cow’s Milk
– Hot dogs
– Nuts and seeds
– Large chunks of meat and cheese
– Grapes (whole)
– Peanut butter **
– Raw vegetables
– Fruit chunks
– Candy! Including chewing gum (I wish I didn’t have to list that babies shouldn’t have candy…)
– Prepared foods (for adults)
– Juice (water instead!)
*Please Note:**Peanut butter is one of the most common allergens, however, it is considered okay for parents to introduce the substance to their babies as it may reduce the chance of them having an allergy to it. This is a choking hazard, so if you decide to give it to your baby just mix with water to make it thinner and easier to swallow! She likes peanut butter in her oatmeal… I just make sure that it is mixed nicely and not clumped. And, as always, please talk about introducing peanut butter with your pediatrician before you do!
Premade or Homemade?
This part is quite basic, you can either buy premade jars of baby food or buy the produce (organic or not) to make baby food.
Personally, I feed Dee both. It’s hard being a Mumma! Though I do fall on the side of more so making her food, sometimes I don’t remember everything and it’s good to have the backup of store-bought just in case! (Or if you want to take along food for a family lunch out, those store-bought baby foods are going to be so helpful as they aren’t required to be refrigerated, heated, etc.!)
Store-bought baby foods are pretty good quality. When we buy pre-made baby foods, we stick with the Beech-Nut brand. This brand doesn’t use any preservatives! In each single puree jar is literally just the fruit or vegetable and added water!
There’s absolutely no problem with feeding baby completely with pre-made foods. It is much easier and faster for parents (which is why many families choose premade!). My preference was with homemade foods, but I am in no way discouraging a parents decision on this matter. I have been a homemaker since Dee was born, it was easy for me to buy foods and prepare them for her as well as ours.
(*Note: Beech-Nut is approved by WIC! -in Maine, anyways. Check with your states WIC department as brands/what is offered to you may differ.-)
Now that I’ve told you there’s absolutely no problem with feeding baby premade foods, I’m going to tell you my only problem with this option; you don’t know if the soil used contained heavy metals, and you don’t know the exact process used to make these foods.
I know there are sell-by dates and regulations on all this but, I just don’t trust it. When I make homemade foods, I can label the exact date and even time that they were made. I know how they were handled, how they were cleaned, and exactly how much water versus food there is. I also know whether the produce was organic or not, if there were any bad spots that should have been removed, etc.
My favorite thing about homemade baby foods is that I know exactly how much produce my baby is eating. Beech-Nut tells you “what’s inside” as far as how much apple, banana, etcetera, I just have a hard time picturing these amounts unless I’ve made it . This also makes me feel good because it actually helped us save a lot of money since I could make large batches and freeze her foods. (We will talk about this later!)
Homemade food is much better! (As far as freshness and price…)
Making food at home gives you so many more options! A good example would be for apples; there are so many different types of apples! It will be fun watching your baby’s reaction to eating a sour apple like granny smith versus a sweet one such as honey-crisp.
Again, in my opinion, the thing that makes homemade the best choice is that you know exactly what’s going into your baby. I like to buy in bulk when the fruit or vegetable is in season, so she has the variety a lot longer! Produce will last in the freezer for 2-3 months! (I even started buying produce at local farms and markets before she was ready to eat them 😉
You can also buy frozen produce to use when it’s out of season! (Just remember that this should not be refrozen.)
When I go shopping, I just buy extra of everything and everyone is happy because we are all eating fresh, wholesome foods!
I just want to say again that I am in no way discouraging parents who don’t make their baby food. I am simply showing my passion for making my baby foods. I did use pre-made foods for her as well!
So… What Are the Best First Foods?
This part is simple. I’m just going to give you a nice list of Dee’s favorite foods (as of 8 months):
– Sweet Potato
– Butternut Squash
– Green Bean
– Black Olives (she DOES NOT get this from me! Yuck!)
Meats & Protein
– Beef (steaks)
– Peanut Butter
– Rice cereal
– My homemade bread (I will post my recipe soon!)
– Yogurt (YoBaby)
There are a ton more options for baby-safe foods! Right now, our baby girl is only 8 months, so we still have a few limitations. However, everything on our list you are able to introduce as soon as you want after getting the go ahead from your pediatrician!
How to Make Baby Food
Making your baby homemade food is so rewarding! I have fun making her food because I know it’s fresh, I handle and clean all of it, and I can just see the difference in a homemade puree and a store-bought one (and partly because I like to eat it all too…).
You can use a baby food maker or a regular ole blender. Baby food makers usually are at least a “2 in 1” type of deal where you can use it too cook anything for your baby and puree it. If you decide to just use a blender, then you will be cooking whatever food you make as you normally would for yourself then blend it to the consistency you’d like!
With most baby food makers, you will need your pieces cut into about 1-inch sized cubes (do the best you can, it won’t be perfect!). There are directions for how long you should cook your food. My food maker tells you to cook some things like avocado and banana, that don’t need to be cooked. Just puree them!
Important: You should know to peel everything and wash it before you cook and/or puree it!!!
When pureeing the food, I gradually add water in 1-ounce increments to make sure I get the consistency I want. I just use either one of her bottles or a food storage container for measurement!
As baby gets older, they will not need their food to be so well pureed. With pre-made baby foods, they are labelled “stage 1”, “stage 2”, and so on through toddler-hood. Well, you can do the same thing! Don’t puree those apples as fine as usual once baby gets teeth so she can practice chewing a bit. Increase the amount of texture and decrease how much water/time on blend is used to create different stages of baby food.
We have meal and snack recipes for babies as well as toddlers! We also have an entire post on knowing what to feed your baby/toddler every day, coming soon!
Store, Freeze & Thaw
When I make her baby food, I take what I think she’ll eat in a few days and leave in the fridge in food jars. The rest gets frozen!
You can freeze baby food in clean and covered ice cube trays, glass jars, or BPA-free containers. My preferred methods are to put the food in ice cube trays (you can use any tray you may have, or buy ones like mine) and to use the small colorful containers I recommended to you earlier in the post.
When using the trays, I let them freeze over-night and then I pop them all out and put them in a reusable sandwich bag or container labeled with the date I made them.
Fruits and vegetables will stay good in the freezer for about 3 months. Meats, beans, and grains will stay good in the freezer for no longer than 2 months.
The major reason I prefer to use ice cube trays is that then you have little cubes that you can just mix and match and thaw all together in a baby food jar! I throw the cubes that I want her to have in a baby food container and put it in her bottle warmer on low an hour before she’ll eat it. I also sometimes put a small bulk of some of her favorites in the fridge over-night and it is usually thawed by morning.
I don’t recommend using the stovetop or microwave to thaw baby food as thaw results may be uneven, and the container may not be microwave safe. Just use your common sense when thawing your baby’s food. You’re a smart momma. 🙂
*Note: When food is taken out of the freezer, it will stay good for 2-3 days. Again, use your judgment. Try it before you give it to baby!
When my baby first started eating foods, I didn’t expect her to eat much (correct, I was!) so I only put together about an ounce worth of food each time she ate. As she grew along with her love for food, I began giving her more each time she ate. She ate 3-4ounces at each meal when she was 8 months old!
When we started her on finger foods rather than purees, she was eating easily 5 ounces of puree each meal!
She started out 3 meals a day; fruit and oatmeal for breakfast, fruit and/or vegetable for lunch, and vegetables and/or meat for supper. If she seemed hungry between breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner, then I would give her something for a snack (usually yogurt mixed with fruit).
As a toddler, she still eats three meals a day and about two snacks, but of course, the portions have changed dramatically!
Before Dee could drink cow’s milk, she got her solid foods after she drank a bottle of breastmilk or formula, within an hour or so. She may not eat it all, and she may want more. Either way is okay, there’s nothing wrong! She may just be going through a growth spurt or she could still be full from her bottle.
Once she hit about six months, she had a sippy cup of water when she sat for her meals. Babies can get thirsty between bottle feedings or nursing sessions, so it is okay to offer water. Not too much though, we do not want baby to get full-on nothing! Also, absolutely no fruit juice still! We want baby getting her fruits from real fruit, instead of sugared down products of fruit.
I know you may want to give baby fruit juice, it’s exciting that you are trying new foods with them every week, why not juice?! However, juice contains a lot of sugars and other ingredients that won’t nourish your baby like whole fruit or veggie meals would.
Spice Things Up…?
Many of you are probably wondering what we do about the seasonings. To be completely blunt, it really doesn’t matter. I mean, if you’re not going crazy with the salt, cayenne, or lemon it won’t hurt baby.
Herbs and spices are beneficial to your health! Some good examples are: ginger is good for the digestive tract, cinnamon gives the brain a boost, and basil is good for the muscles (VERY helpful for newly crawling and walking babies!).
We tried her with nearly every spice at an early age. Now that she’s a toddler, I’m so thankful I did that because she is not a picky eater! (Well, every child has things they really don’t like.)
*Note: When trying baby with new things it is recommended that you wait 3-5 days between each. This goes for spices too! Do not have baby try pears and cinnamon in the same day, for example.
It is always best to talk with your baby’s pediatrician before trying new things like herbs and spices! Especially if your baby is on medications.
However, you decide to feed your baby is your choice! Don’t make it too stressful for yourself. If you do decide to make your own baby foods, that’s great! It is a tough job, but your baby will reward you with grunts of satisfaction and the yearning for more of mom’s delicious homemade nutrients!
Did I miss anything? I probably did, so please leave any questions or feedback in the comments! 😊