Introduction to Homemade Convenience for Babies
Portable, shelf-stable, homemade baby foods are a dream that many Moms and Dads wish they had available to them. Well, NOW it is possible with the use of a dehydrator! Learn how simple and rewarding (economical & eco-friendly too), it is to make your baby fresh homemade food!
Former Challenges to Homemade Baby Foods
I was one of those Moms who felt I needed to pave the way to a healthy start for my child by making my baby foods. Every weekend’s adventure began with a trip to the Farmer’s Market where I picked out the freshest ingredients for my son.
Then at home, I steamed all the foods, breaking down the enzymes and fibers that could cause tummy upset for my little one. All cooking was in small batches, just enough for one week. I used an immersion blender to purée the foods while they were still hot. When the foods cooled, I loaded them into ice-cube trays for freezing.
On Sunday, when the batches were frozen, I got out my small baggies and popped all the frozen cubes out of their trays. Individual bagging was necessary because I was a working Mom and they had were delivered each day for daycare. Oh how I wish I had known about fruit and vegetable powders then!
Homemade baby food is a popular option for parents who want to know exactly what goes into their baby’s mouth and making it is easier than you think. However, many parents run up against the same challenges in processing their own baby’s foods as I did.
- Time. It takes time to make and prepare lots of little servings of homemade baby food. It’s much faster to pick up prepackaged servings.
- Convenience. Prepackaged baby foods come in measured amounts and ready to serve.
- Storage. Homemade baby foods may spoil more quickly and need refrigeration, which may take up room in your fridge or freezer if you make many servings ahead of time. Prepackaged baby foods don’t need refrigerator storage until they’re opened.
- Portability. Trying to keep puréed foods cold is a hassle if you are traveling every day with a child. Road trips, with baby-on-board, are a real challenge if you are making your own homemade baby foods. You may want the portability and lightweight convenience of foods that do not come in store-bought, breakable, heavy jars as well—something most find they have to resort to when taking long trips.
Enter in FOOD POWDERS to Counter These Challenges!
Fruit and Vegetable Powders are the answer to many of the challenges of homemade baby foods.
- You can prepare large batches of food that are shelf-stable. This allows you to make a month’s worth of food in one sitting, saving you TIME.
- Your powdered food can just be rehydrated with water, formula, or breast milk, allowing you to make your baby’s food fresh and CONVENIENT. You can even measure out your powders so they are at the ready for each meal.
- Fruit and vegetable powders do not need refrigeration and—because the water has been removed—stay fresh, so you can make more servings ahead of time and STORAGE is done in a shelf-stable way. Your baby food will only need refrigeration if you have leftovers.
- Because you can just add water, your baby foods are now lightweight and PORTABLE.
- Store-bought, jarred food is cooked at extremely high temperatures to kill bacteria for longer storage, at the same time taking out many of the food’s vitamins and nutrients and taste. If you roast, steam, or boil veggies or fruit on the weekends and purée in a mini food processor, you can make three or four different fruits and veggies at a time, so you have a month’s worth of food with each cooking weekend. And making your own baby food does help you think more about what you’re feeding your child. It also paves the way for making healthier meals, even as baby gets older. This gives you the HEALTHY BENEFITS you are looking for as well.
Cooking, puréeing, and then dehydrating homemade baby food is very simple. Making homemade food can be done in 1 hour per week hands on time and reap the benefits of foods that are free of preservatives, GMO ingredients, and other additives you may not prefer to feed your baby. You KNOW what is in every bowl of food your baby eats! It is usually more economical than buying pre-packaged foods. You can choose your own fruits, vegetables, and other foods for purées, instead of relying on the flavors chosen by manufacturers. You’re not going to find melons or avocados in the baby food section of the supermarket.
A Few Notes on Introducing These Foods to Your Baby’s Diet
The AAP recommends that an infant not be started on solid foods until after 6 months of age. Many pediatricians still start babies on solids around 4 months of age. Check with YOUR pediatrician as to the diet he/she wants you to introduce to your baby first before looking to these recipes. Then take those foods suggested by your healthcare professional and run with them!
- When thinking about starting baby on solid foods and introducing solids to baby, a good rule of thumb is to “Watch the Baby – Not the Calendar”. This is true when introducing solid foods for both breastfed and formula fed infants. Just because baby has turned 4 months old does not mean they must be introduced to solid foods.
- To prevent choking, make sure your baby is sitting up when you introduce solid foods. If your baby cries or turns away when you give him the food, do not force the issue. It is more important that you both enjoy mealtimes than for your baby to start solids by a specific date. Go back to nursing or bottle-feeding exclusively for a week or two and then try again.
- It is important for your baby to get used to the process of eating — sitting up, taking bites from a spoon, resting between bites, and stopping when full. Always use a spoon to feed your baby solid foods. Some parents try putting solid foods in a bottle or infant feeder with a nipple. This is not a good idea. Feeding your baby this way can cause choking. It also greatly increases the amount of food your baby eats and can cause your baby to gain too much weight. These early experiences will help your child learn good eating habits throughout life.
- Babies will probably only eat 1/2 of a tablespoon portion of food the very first time you begin solids. Don’t expect your baby to “finish” a meal. Keep in mind this is a new experience for your baby. As your baby gets older and is eating more solids, you will gradually increase the portion sizes. Also, keep in mind that breast milk and/or infant formula are providing for the total nutrition of your baby at this stage.
- Start with half a spoonful or less and talk to your baby through the process (“Mmm, see how good this is!”). Your baby may not know what to do at first. She may look confused or insulted, wrinkle her nose, roll the food around her mouth, or reject it altogether. This is a normal reaction, because her feedings have been so different up to this point.
- One way to make eating solids for the first time easier is to give your baby a little milk first, then switch to very small half-spoonfuls of food, and finish with more milk. This will prevent your baby from getting frustrated when she is very hungry.
- Do not be surprised if most of the first few solid-food feedings wind up on your baby’s face, hands, and bib. Increase the amount of food gradually, with just a teaspoonful or two to start. This allows your baby time to learn how to swallow solids
- Many parents find their babies will push the food out of their mouths on the first few tries. This is normal however it may also show that your baby is not yet ready for solid foods. Only you know your baby and will be able to decide if baby is truly ready for solids.
- A baby’s tummy is the size of his fist – remember this as you are feeding him; it doesn’t take much food to make a meal.
- Give your baby one new food at a time, and wait at least 2 to 3 days before starting another. After each new food, watch for any allergic reactions such as diarrhea, rash, or vomiting. If any of these occur, stop using the new food and talk with your pediatrician.
Making Baby Food: What You’ll Need
All you need is a dehydrator, a way to grind the food, and a way to steam and purée the food. (If you’re taking the time to make your own baby food, steaming is the best way to cook ingredients because it preserves the most nutrients.) Your own food processor will work just as well for making baby food. And if you don’t have one, just use a potato masher or blender, to make sure the food is soft and does not have chunks.
Many popular books offer hundreds of recipes for baby food purées, including Blender Baby Food, Top 100 Baby Purées, and the Petit Appetit Cookbook. These books can help you come up with new ideas to try with your baby and remind you of important nutrients to include, but as with baby food makers, they’re not a requirement for making your own baby food.
When it comes to making powders to use for your baby foods, there are 2 special considerations to keep in mind.
- If you are going to make vegetable and fruit powders with the intent of using them for baby food, the produce you use MUST be cooked until very tender before dehydration even if it is indicated that cooking is not necessary.
- Do not add anything to your produce; no oils, sugars, salts, or herbs/spices. Babies cannot handle these additives and the food must be broken down for their delicate digestive system.
AAP. 2001. Starting solid foods. American Academy of Pediatrics. http://www.allchildrenspediatrics.com/docs/starting_solid_foods.pdf
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