Starting my daughter on solids was a lot of fun, albeit *a little* (ha!) messy. I wanted to try the baby-led weaning method when she hit 6 months, but I honestly felt that she just wouldn’t have been ready. Instead, we skipped the “filler” cereals and started nutrient-dense homemade purées at 5 months. On a side note, do know that the American Academy of Pediatrics and other organizations/health experts now recommend delaying ANY solids until 6 months (not the previously suggested 4-6 months). We just went with what we felt was right based on her development at the time.
I understand that jar food is easy and convenient, but I was committed to putting in the legwork to give Sophie the best possible nutrition. For one, I was able to control exactly what goes into her body instead of trying to understand ingredients off of a nutrition label. Secondly, organic or not, it’s a million times more cost-efficient than buying pre-prepared foods. Finally, it really doesn’t require as much effort as I originally thought. If you have half an hour to an hour to spare one day each week (even in short intervals), you can purée your own baby food.
Prep – First and foremost, check which foods are suitable for baby’s age group (here’s a great chart for some ideas), and introduce one at a time every few days to more easily pinpoint the cause of any allergic reactions. Later on, once he/she has tried several foods, you can have fun with blends (Sophie used to love avocado-banana and strawberry-mango). Next, wash EVERYTHING. When it comes to fruits especially, I soak them for 20 minutes before feeding them to baby (a little excessive, I know). Soaking and washing remove bacteria and residue and, honestly, just makes everything taste better. Peel skins away and cut into smaller pieces to make it quicker for steaming.
Steam – While boiling is OK, I learned that steaming actually preserves color, flavor, and nutrients. While some people choose to steam nearly everything, I did skip things like apples and papaya which I knew would blend well on their own. In the interest of being frugal, I started off using a colander placed inside of a lidded pot filled halfway with boiling water. While effective, this can also be tedious. Halfway through our feeding journey, I discovered that my rarely-used Hamilton Beach rice cooker has accessories for steaming! Needless to say, I never used the colander method again.
Purée – Though adorable AF, it’s totally unnecessary to buy food processors specifically targeted towards kids. It’s a complete waste of money, and I’d rather you throw it my way instead. 😉 98% of the time, you already own something that will get the job done exactly the same way, if not better. If you have a simple blender, food processor, or even a Nutribullet, you can get any food down to a puréed consistency. You can even mash things up by hand if baby is ready for some texture.
Store – Here’s the best part. None of this has to be done every day. Do you have a freezer? Do you have an ice tray and freezer-friendly storage bags/Tupperware? Then you’re all set! Frozen purées can stay in the freezer anywhere from 3 to 6 months (although consuming within the first month is, of course, ideal). I purchased these trays from OXO Tot off of Amazon and they worked beautifully. After freezing some fruits and veggies, I would then separate the cubes into labeled ziplock bags to be used when needed. All you need is a microwave. We started with one cube (about .75 oz.) per meal and then eventually worked our way up to about 3-4 cubes per meal. Now, our little hungry hippo outright refuses purées and prefers to pick up “chunks” of her food like a big girl. Cue the tears. 😦 Another great product we found were these Munchkin mesh food feeders that are still a must-have when Sophie is teething. Pop one frozen fruit cube in and let baby have at it.
While this entry is probably pointless to some, I’m hoping I can offer some encouragement to new parents who are tired of either a) spending a crap load of money on pre-packaged baby food and/or b) giving their kid food with not-always-so-great additives. Believe me, I get it. If I didn’t purchase puffs, yogurt melts, or teething wafers (thank God for HappyBaby), I literally couldn’t parent. But when it comes to real food, save yourself some coin (and junky preservatives) and give homemade purées a try. You’ll be thankful you did. Before you know it, you’ll be losing your mind trying to figure out how to cut mushy foods into a million bite-sized portions while using one foot to keep your kid from eating an unidentified speck off of the floor. That’s parenting, folks—the height of glamour.