Thursday, August 19, 2010

Homemade Baby Food

Before A. was born I was pretty sure that I would make my own baby food. A friend had told me how easy it was and one look at the price of those tiny jars was enough to convince me that it made economic sense. My only worry was finding the time, but I had visions of being crazy productive during the long naps I was sure my baby would take. After A. was born I realized that finding time might be harder than I thought and was starting to waffle on the idea of making my own baby food when she developed food allergies. She was allergic to dairy, soy and corn which meant that many of those jars and boxes of baby food were off limits to her. There is only one brand of rice cereal that she can have and only one brand of puffs. While many of the "stage 1" foods were okay, the later stages were more questionable. Even the standard toddler fair of Cheerios is off limits for the time being (she seems to have outgrown the allergies, but we aren't going to reintroduce the food to her until after her first birthday). Luckily I like cooking and DH was more than willing to play with A. in the evenings while I cooked. I scoured the internet to find recipes convinced that with the popularity of prepackaged baby food it had to be hard to make your own. I came across a website with a ton of information on what to fix and how to fix it. I also had a baby food cookbook and a couple of different sized ice cube trays for freezing so I set myself a time and went for it.

It really was easy once I got into the swing of things. I did have some problems like the time the prunes wouldn't come out of the ice cube trays (turns out the puree was too thick so they never fully froze) or the time that I wound up giving up on the blender and the food processor for my sweet potatoes and running the whole thing through the food mill. Then there was the time that I was trying to mash a banana with a fork, only to have bits go flying out of the bowl onto the floor...But other than that it was really easy. I learned that it makes more sense to combine making the baby food with making my food which saved me a ton of time. If I was roasting a chicken for dinner I would wrap a few sweet potatoes in foil and throw them in the oven too. Pull them out with the chicken and set them aside to cool. By the time we were done with dinner they were cool enough I didn't burn myself and the skins would peel off with the foil. Then I'd run them through the food mill (neither my food processor nor my blender liked how thick the roasted sweet potatoes were) and throw everything into ice cube trays. If I needed to make carrots I would make enough that DH and I could have carrots with dinner and then throw the rest in the food processor for A. Between this and a few batches of steamed fruit we were able to get through the puree stage. Now we are to the stage that I would have preferred to start with had A. not been so demanding about starting solids before she could feed them to herself. (I'd really wanted to try "baby led weaning", but starting at 4.5 months A. would scream if she saw us eating and not sharing. The first time we gave her applesauce she scarfed down as much as we would give her.)

Now that we are out of the puree stage and into the finger food stage things have gotten both easier and harder. Life is easier because I don't have to worry about pureeing or mashing foods specifically for A. Her favorite thing is to eat whatever we are eating. However, this means that whatever we are eating has to have something that she can eat too. She also prefers to feed herself so whatever we do has to be something that she can pick up with her fingers as she hasn't mastered a spoon yet. This means that if we have something like soup I have to figure out a way to feed her too. In some cases it is easy enough to just pull some meat and/or veggies out of the soup and give her those. In others she may get something completely different from what we are having. However, this post is getting really long so I will talk about the specifics of finger foods another day. I mostly want to say that if you don't mind some failures you can make your own baby food. In our case it was very much needed both from an financial standpoint and an allergy standpoint, but next time I think I will do it even if those aren't concerns just because it is fun to be able to play with stuff and it is nice to know exactly where the food is coming from. That is, unless I can convince the next kid to hold off on solids until they can feed themselves...

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