A recent trend among many parents is making their own baby food. That movement has generated several questions. When should parents start feeding babies solid food? How can baby food be made safely?
When to Start Solid Foods
Your baby should exhibit signs of readiness for solid foods including sitting up with little support, maintaining good head control for the duration of a meal and interest in eating solid foods (indicated by reaching for food on your plate and opening wide for a taste from your spoon). Typically, babies consistently demonstrate these skills around age 6 months.
How to Make It
Making homemade baby food involves two main goals: keep out bad stuff and make sure your child doesn’t choke. It’s best to start with simple, bland foods with a pureed consistency. Cereals, vegetables and fruit are appropriate, and the order is unimportant, although many babies are more willing to accept vegetables if they are introduced before fruits and when they are very hungry. Here are some tips to make things go smoothly.
- Wash and rinse your hands, equipment and produce.
- Peel fruits and vegetables.
Remove stems, pits and seeds.
- For food that requires cooking, bake,
steam, roast or microwave until tender.
- When your child is ready for meat,
remove skin, fat, bone and connective
tissues. Cook fully (no pink).
- In the beginning, add a little water,
breast milk or infant formula and puree
with a food processor.
- As your baby becomes comfortable
with textures, introduce mashed items.
- Next (usually around age 9 months),
introduce very small pieces of food
(smaller than a dime).
- When your child is ready, introduce
self-feeding with finger foods.
- Always supervise and watch for choking.
What to Consider Before You Cook
While making your own baby food can be cost-effective, buying organic produce may not save as much money as you would like. Storing homemade baby food requires freezer or refrigerator space and it spoils faster than food purchased in a jar. Rare safety concerns exist, as well, such as nitrates and botulism.
Botulism is caused by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum, which produces a substance called botulinum toxin. Botulinum toxin works at the cellular level, causing muscle paralysis. This bacteria lives in the soil, and exists in two forms: active bacteria (which create botulinum toxin) and spores. While boiling food for 10 minutes will usually kill active bacteria and destroy the toxin, it will not eliminate the spores.
If high-risk foods are improperly canned, active bacteria may emerge from spores and begin making toxin, which can accumulate in food and pose a serious danger to anyone who consumes it. Additionally, while spores usually pass safely through the body, the rare possibility exists that active bacteria will emerge and begin making toxin while still inside the intestine. Infants 12 months and younger are among the most prone.
Dr. Mike Patrick is an emergency medicine physician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
If you’re looking for some great homemade baby food recipes, click here for 21 DIY options, courtesy of Top Reveal.