Friday, February 4, 2011

Baby Food

Well my friends, the time has come for my daughter to start eating solids.  I can't believe we are already to this point in her life!  Where have the past 4.5 months gone?  

One thing I was sure of before I had Lucy, was that when the time came, I was going to make her baby food.  I bought a Baeba babycook before she was even born and was so excited about it.  I came to the decision to make her babyfood myself when I realized what goes into many jarred baby foods.  Many baby foods (not all, but many) are full of fillers, preservatives, water, and thickeners,  in place of real nutritious food.  Over half of Gerber's most popular selections contain these fillers instead of the fruits and vegetables advertised.  Also, many of the natural vitamins and minerals found in foods are stripped in the process of making and storing jarred baby food.  Jarred baby food is expensive, and after a little research on my part, I found it's not as nutritious as the big companies trick us into believing.  I also tasted some of the baby food options available and they taste nothing like the actual food they are supposed to be!  I want Lucy to be exposed to the taste and way I prepare food from the beginning so she is less likely to reject those foods later in life, if we were to make the switch from jarred food to my food.  I also don't want to allow her to get a separate meal from us every time she eats.  I want her to eat what we are eating.  Meal time in our home is and will be a family event and I refuse to make each of my kids something different at every meal.  So between the ingredients in shelved baby food, the taste of them, the cost and the lack of nutients, homemade baby food it is for us!

I have decided to only use organic fruits and vegetables, (and when the time comes, meats as well) to ensure she isn't getting any pesticides or hormones in her food.

It is recommended that babies main source of nutrition is breast milk until at least six months of age, one year is best.  Babies can be started on solid foods between 4 and 6 months of age, as a supplement to breastfeeding or formula.  Before starting your baby on solid food, always consult with your pediatrician.  A lot of the old baby food 'rules' are changing and things aren't as strict as they used to be (i.e. you can give your baby strawberries before 1 year of age, whereas that used to be on the 'forbidden' list).  It's more of a watch-and-be-careful kind of a policy now.  If there is a family history of food allergies, extra care and timing are crucial, and a pediatrician should certainly be consulted with before the child is exposed to any food.  I did tons of research and talked to Lucy's pediatrician about this topic, and only two things are absolutely off limits in the first year, milk and honey.  I had heard of the milk, but never the honey.  Honey can cause botulism in babies under one year old.  Although milk is off limits, cheese and yogurt are ok for babies to consume.  They are easier to digest than milk, and milk itself can cause the body to be unable to absorb iron which is a necessary vitamin for infants.

Although not necessary, it is recommended that you wait 3 days between exposing your baby to new foods in case of an allergic reaction.  If there is a food allergy, it will be easier for you to identify the cause.  

Some of the easiest foods to start baby on are rice cereal, bananas, and avocado.  All have a nice texture that is easy to swallow,  are nutritious, and are pleasant on the taste buds.  Mixing the baby's first food with expressed breast milk may allow the baby to accept the food easier than if it were plain or mixed with water, because of the familiar taste.

You can make and freeze your baby food in bulk at the beginning of the week or month and freeze it.  Just pull it out and thaw or heat appropriately before mealtime.  You can freeze your food in designated baby food freezing trays, or in ice cube trays.  Once the food is frozen, remove it from the tray and store in a labeled freezer bag.  Be sure to include the date of preparation and ingredients on the label of the bag.  The frozen food should be used within a month of being prepared.

Baby food is so easy to make!  If you are eating a healthy and balanced diet, you can most likely give them some of what you are eating every day.  The best way to prepare vegetables and fruits, in order to best preserve their nutrients is to bake, sautee or steam them.  Never prepare baby's food in a microwave, either to cook or thaw it.  Once cooked, let the food cool a bit and blend it in a blender, food processor or your baby food maker.  Naturally soft fruits should never be cooked, as cooking them takes some of their nutritional value away from them.  Just mash them up and enjoy!

I'm excited about the Baeba because it cooks, steams, thaws, heats, and purees the food all in this single bowl.  It is BPA and PVC free, easy to clean and easy to use.  Although it's a fun accessory, it certainly isn't necessary to have in order to make your own baby food.

Here is my sweet Lucy the first time she ate solids.  We chose to go with rice cereal and breast milk for her first go.

A few days later she was very fond of the bananas we prepared.

I'm very excited to introduce her to more and more foods and food combinations.  I have a whole menu planned out that we will be exploring over the next several weeks.  Below I have listed some websites where you can find more information about making your own baby food, ways to prepare it and recipes to follow.

Enjoy!  I know my happy and healthy Lucy will.