Homemade Baby Food

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Freezing homemade cereals

Feb 2004

Does anyone know if you can freeze pre-made rice cereal or oat cereal? We've been pureeing veggies and freezing it in ice trays for our baby, but haven't been able to find anything on grains.

I have a recipe for making homemade brown rice cereal by rinsing, straining, toasting, & then grinding the grains. The recipe says that the grains can be stored after toasting, but once they're ground, they must be used within 24-48 hours.

That's when I wondered what would happen if I took that ground- up cereal, added breast milk, and then froze the portions in the ice tray like we've been doing with the veggies, but I haven't been able to find any info on it. Does anyone know? Is it a silly question to ask? It sure would make prepping meals a lot faster for us. Needing Quick and Easy Steps for Homemade Baby Food

Check out Ruth Yaron's (I think) Super Baby Foods Book. There is a section of grinding your own grain cereal, and I think it says that you can keep it (raw) and in a zip-lock bag or airtight jar up to a week. For extra safty I guess you could freeze it. I would not suggest pre-mixing it with b-milk and freezins as it may change the consistancy of the meal. I would look it up for you but a friend has my book right now. Good luck and ins't it wonderful to make your own ''baby-food.'' Keep up the extra hour or so a week, your baby will grow up LOVING all types of foods! courtney
Yes yes yes! I cook up real grains for my baby -- rice, oatmeal, barley, and millet once a week or so, and then blend it up in a mini-food processor so it is a little mushier, then freeze it in baby food jars (leave about 1/2 inch for expansion) or small little Gladware cups. I either thaw them for a day in the fridge, or microwave them, so they pop out into a bowl. Then I warm them up in the microwave some more, THEN add formula and stir it all up. when they have been frozen, the grains are sort of like a big solid mass (imagine cat food coming out of a can), but I use the formula to make it a nicer texture, and it helps cool it down to the right temperature. I w! ouldn't add the formula before freezing. love making baby food!

Homemade rice cereal - not enough iron?

Dec 2003

I would like to make rice cereal from brown rice rather than buying the powdered mixes. However, I'm concerned that my breast-fed baby (now 6 months) needs some sort of iron supplements. The Super Baby Food book says that if you are not using an iron-fortified cereal or formula, that at about 6 months your baby's iron stores have been depleted and she needs iron supplements. I have read this elsewhere too. Intuitively, this does not make sense to me -- that the only way for her to have healthy amounts of iron is through some supplementation. Aren't there any regular foods (that I can make myself) that will help provide her with more iron? What are the development risks of not enough iron? I've searched everywhere for some reference literature on this topic and haven't found anything, except a few minority/fringe opinions saying breastmilk provides enough iron. Since so many other sources say the contrary, I'm nervous on relying on info from random websites. Am I alone in struggling with this issue? Sarah

I was concerned about this issue, too, when my (breast-fed) daughter was that age. She showed very little interest in ''solid'' food until she was over 14 months and even then she wouldn't touch iron-fortified cereal. She has always been a finicky eater and I have not tried to fee! d her special iron- containing foods or supplemental vitamins/minerals. However, she (now almost 4 years old) has always been incredibly healthy and never showed any signs of anemia. With my second child, I am not worried about it at all. I figure that if he shows signs of being less than healthy, I will ask my pediatrician to run a iron-level test on him and take if from there. -another mom
My son was about 98% breastfed for the first 10 months of his life, even though we had been trying to introduce solids since month five. He never had an iron problem. His pediatrician was not unduly concerned. He eventually began eating solids, although we never could get him to take iron-supplemented cereal. I wouldn't stress over it too much at this point, but you could ask your doctor about your baby's iron levels. Patty
I recommend just using the box rice cereal instead of making your own as it will easier for your baby to digest, especially the iron. Spend the time it would take to make it instead with your baby or partner. Or for yourself. At Elephant Pharmacy, Berkeley Bowl, etc. they sell the Earth's Best brand which is organic and no GMOs. When introducing your baby to solids you should only introduce something new ever three days to give time to see if they might have an allergy. So what I did after my son got used to the rice cereal is puree fruit to add to the rice cereal. Every couple of days I'd introduce a new fruit or veggie.

One thing to keep in mind when making food for your baby is that whole grains/fiber can be counter productive as it can deplete a baby's iron by passing it out of their system. I was pretty adamant at first about making all of my son's food. But then you realize that you only have so much time in the day and that once in a while it is such a relief to be able to reach for that jar of baby food after getting only 4 hours of sleep because of teething, or because you want to just spend time playing with your baby or with your partner. Or after making what you think is a delicious baby meal, you've got a starving, crying child that refuses to eat what you made. So have a stash of the Earths Best stuff on hand and don't feel that your a bad parent because you don't make every meal for your child. It has been shown that the jarred food contains just as much nutrients as fresh does. anon

First, if your baby was born at full term, healthy, and particularly if the umbilical cord was not cut until it had stopped pulsing, your baby is not going to just run out of iron on the day he turns 6 months old. He'll probably be just fine until at least a year old. It's true that breastmilk does not provide high levels of iron, but the form of iron found in breastmilk is more ''bioavailable'' than the form used in supplements, and thus less of it is required. That said, of course it's a good idea to start giving your baby iron-rich foods when, or within a relatively short period of time after, he starts solids. If you prefer not to use iron- enriched cereals (and remember that Cheerios and the like are iron-fortified, just as baby rice cereal is), you can try brussels sprouts, beans, and meats. Of course, preparing meat so that it's soft enough for a toothless infant to consume is a royal pain; that's why most people just use cereal. :-) Your baby's blood will be tested for iron level at his 9-month or 12-month checkup. Don't worry about it unless and until that test shows that more iron is needed. Holly

Nitrates in homemade veggies?

March 2000

It's about time to introduce my baby to carrots, but I've heard that home-cooked carrots may contain high levels of nitrates. I checked the Berkeley Parents' website, and saw that this question was asked a little over a year ago, but apparently never answered. Is there anyone out there now who knows if I really need to avoid home-cooked carrots? Thanks.

According to the book _Feeding your Child for Lifelong Health_ by Susan B. Roberts and Melvin B. Heyman (Jane Brody had given it a good write-up in the NY Times a few months ago), high-nitrate vegetables should not be home-prepared before eight months. It is okay to buy commercial baby foods because manufacturers screen their produce before buying it. High-nitrate vegetables include beets, carrots, green beans, squash, turnips, spinach and collard greens.

The reason to avoid nitrates, from what I understand of the authors' explanation, is that young babies convert nitrates (with an a) into nitrites (with an i). Nitrites (found in hot dogs, hams, sausages, etc.) can cause a form of anemia called methemoglobinemia. As stated in the book, ... nitrites transform your baby's immature hemoglobin into methemoglobine, which is unable to transport life-sustaining oxygen around the body.

There are high amounts of nitrates in carrots, spinach and several other vegetables. In rare instances, babies under a year old can have very bad reactions to them. Baby food companies purchase these vegetables from growers that test and condition the soil to ensure a lower nitrate content. There is a paragraph or two in the What to Expect the First Year book about avoiding vegetable nitrates during the first year.
Many moms, particularly first-timers, seem to want to go the extra yard and make their own baby food. I commend this attitude, but frankly, as a mom who works full-time and is the primary person in charge of all house-related issues (my partner has a VERY time-consuming and stressful job, so given the choice, I'd rather he spend quality time w/ the baby, and me), I could not even IMAGINE having the time and energy to 'make my own'. There are quite a few baby foods on the market, which are VERY good, and honestly, they even taste okay! Look for the ones that are simply veggies, nothing else.

When I introduced our baby to carrots, she LOVED them -- in fact, the pediatrician laughed that he didn't have to ask us if she was eating her veggies, 'cause she had a faintly 'orange' color to her, so he *knew* that she loved her carrots!

My pediatrician also said that nitrates are not of concern in carrots in our area. (In fact our pediatrician said that the only problems he ever encountered with babies who had homemade babyfood were problems relating to salt. I don't usually use any salt in cooking, and since I always made my son's baby food in bigger separate batches from our own it was a non issue for us.) Also, when I was in the midst of the homemade baby food, I read MANY articles that said that nitrates were only an issue if the child was under 6 months. After that the liver should be able to handle the nitrates. Nitrates are not just found in carrots either. I can't remember the list now that I am out of that stage, but I think that turnips were on it too.
There are no nitrates in whole, organic, unprocessed carrots.
I got this response from the American Dietetic Association: Due to fertilization, root vegetables may contain small amounts of nitrites. We would recommend that you utilize organically grown produce if this a concern. If prepared and stored in a safe manner, homemade babyfood is fine.

For safety issues the following resource has a section on babyfood prepartion safety: The American Dietetic Association's Complete Food and Nutrition Guide by Duyff ISBN 0-471-34658-6 call 800-877-1600 ext 5000

Registered Dietitian Knowledge Center - Consumer Division The American Dietetic Association

Regarding nitrates in carrots, my pediatrician told me that is true for certain parts of the country, but it is not a problem here. For what it is worth...

High cost of organic baby food

Sept 1999

Hello, I have a question, as a newcomer to Berkeley and the mother of a 7 months old baby, about where to get not so expensive baby food...? In all the stores near me, in Berkeley ( WHole Foods, Berkeley Bowl), I find decent organic jars, but they are small, and my baby eats two of them at lunch, and they end up costing a lot! Does anyone know of another source of healthy nourishment for a hungry baby? Thanks, Caroline

The high cost of baby food (organic or other) is one of the reasons I started to make my own. It is very easy to do, and so inexpensive! Even if you buy your produce at full price, it comes out cheaper than the babyfood jars. There are several books you can buy to give you information. Two that I have are First Meals by Anablle Karmel and Super Babyfood by Ruth Yaron. You don't really need a book though. (I mostly use the books for guidelines on when to start which foods and how to pick the more exotic types.) All you need to do is cook (steaming and microwaving retain the most nutrients), puree (I use a cuisinart, but you can use a blender, moulee, or a strainer and push the food through with a spoon), and then freeze the food in ice cube trays or your used baby food jars. I defrost the food for the next day overnight in the fridge. Good Luck. Rose

Organic baby food is ridiculously expensive, and the non-organic stuff isn't much cheaper. Have you thought about making your own? For the last 6 months I've been blending my own food and then frrezing it in ice-cube trays. It's definitely cheaper, you can make your own combinations so you get more variety, and since you make a large quantity at one time it's less work than you would think. The book Into the Mouths of Babes has a lot of useful information on recipes (i.e., how much water to add, cooking times, etc.); you can probably find it at Cody's. Jennifer

I made all my own baby food. It was pretty easy, especially with a microwave oven. I cooked the food, mashed it in the food processor or food mill, then froze it in dollops (cookie sized) on a tray with wax paper. It was definitely cheaper than jarred, and my baby loved it. But it does take more time than buying it. I don't work full time, so I was glad to do it. Now that my baby is bigger, I don't have to mash it or freeze it. There is a good book that can help with this if you are interested called Mommy Made and Daddy Too. Hilary

If cost is an issue why not get a baby food grinder and just grind up your own? This is what I did. It only takes a second to do. When you steam organic carrots or potatoes etc. for the rest of the family (or yourself) just don't season them with salt etc. until you've set aside one or two for baby. Toss them into the grinder with a bit of the liquid and voila. Left overs will keep in a tupperware for another meal. I did this and supplemented with organic cereals (which are not expensive) and with jars for when I was in a tearing hurry. My daughter actually preferred the fresh food to the junior jars which she rejected later on (those ones with noodles etc). Anything goes in the grinder pretty much. As baby grows you just add more variety, pinto beans, spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes, whatever you are eating that is OK for the baby. Babies tend to love Tofu which you can pop into boiling water for a few seconds and then add to the mix for protein or later feed in small chunks as finger food. This is cheap and available in organic. Once you get in the habit of just separating the vegetables etc. for the baby it is very routine. Fresh ripe pears, prunes dropped in boiling water, bananas, are also easy to grind/puree and feed to the baby. The nice thing is that you control the amounts since you know how much your baby eats. Also organic applesauce in the big jars (sold for adults) come unsweetened with noadditives (check the label) and are much cheaper than the little baby food jars. They also come with other fruits (apricot, cherries, etc. ) for variety. Doing this you will find that the extra cost of feeding the baby practically disappears. Cristina

I highly recommend getting a hand food grinder. They are inexpensive and available in most drug stores. You just put some of the rest of the family's food in the grinder and turn the crank and it comes out nicely pureed. We fed both of our little ones bananas, sweet potatoes, etc when they first started with solids. They eventually graduate to eating whatever the rest of the family is having just pureed first.

You can also make up big batches of good organic bland food, puree it in a blender, fill an ice cube tray and freeze it. Then you just pop out however many cubes you want for that meal. It doesn't work as well for bananas and the like but it works great for stews, etc. Jeanna

I suggest that you try making it yourself. It is a lot easier than you think, delicous, nutritous for your baby, and very affordable. All you need is a food grinder, a blender or a food processor. If you don't already have one of these items you can easily find tone at a garage sale or thrift store. There are many books (which you can also find used or get from the library) about making your own baby food. I especially like Mommy Made. Even if you don't want to make all of the food, you can certainly pop a sweet potato or other squash in the oven and mash that up. I really think you'll be surprised at how easy it is to make your own food and how much better it is than the stuff in jars. Good luck. Ferences

You asked for alternative sources of nutrition for a 7-month-old, besides expensive baby food in a jar. Um--breastmilk? (Or formula?) My reading has been that the main nutrition for children under 1 year old should be coming from milk, with solid foods being introduced mainly to teach the baby how to eat. So there may be little need for putting a lot of effort into gathering/buying/preparing solid foods for your child to eat. If you're very inclined to use pureed foods, how about something for grown-ups that is readily available, like applesauce. Or you could make your own apple, pear, peach or whatever sauces very easily by just cutting up the fruit and simmering it on the stove for half an hour (you don't really even need to add water, or else just add a tablespoon). It purees itself as it cooks. Or mashed bananas or avocados or tofu. Or you can puree just about anything (well-cooked of course, for vegetables or obviously animal products) in your own blender. I know there are several baby-food cookbooks available, but anything that needed an actual recipe sounded like a lot of work to me. For portion control, I've read about putting your purees into ice-cube trays and thawing them out one or two at a time. Or you could do what I did, which was to simply hold off on solids until my daughter could actually eat actual solid food from her own hand--at age 11 months or so, I started giving her cheerios and banana chunks....By that age she could also easily handle cheese, peas, any fruit, and even tiny chunks of (organic--oops, there goes the expense factor again) tofu dogs. Best wishes. Meg

This is in response to Caroline who wondered how to feed her baby inexpensively. You can buy and prepare regular food and grind it up (food processor, blender, or special baby grinder) and make appetizing, nutritious food for your child. You also know what is in the food and how much it was processed. When my children were that age, I would make a batch of baby food, freeze it in ice cube trays, and defrost the cubes as needed in the microwave. Stir them well and test before serving. Babies often prefer cubes of tofu to pureed meat. These can be served right out of a freshly-opened package, or heated if it's a day or two old. Sweet potatoes and yams are another great food that are easy to bake and mash, and mix with apple juice or water to a good consistency. Actually, the only reason to buy baby food in jars is for convenience on trips and that kind of thing. Enjoy! Louise

I bought 4 jars of expensive organic baby food when we first started feeding solids and found one of them filled with mold. I tried to feed our baby from the other three-- all of which she hated and after trying them myself, I understood why. They tasted TERRIBLE. From then on we fed her from our plates, either first chewing food up for her ourselves, or running it through a small, hand-held food grinder. The cost is obviously minimal and she seems to like almost everything we do including feta cheese, food that is a bit spicy, meats, vegetables, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, etc. Good luck. Andrea

Sometimes you can find baby food at the Canned Foods Grocery Outlet (near 4th and University). It varies as to what brand, but when I was in the market for such food a couple years ago I did run into some about-to-be-outdated jars of Earth's Best food there. You just never know.

Additionally, a friend of mine is a great believer in the do-it-yourself school. She recently bought one sweet potato, cooked it and whirled it in the blender with a little of the cooking water. She says it made about 14 jars of food. She put small amounts in snack-sized ziploc bags and froze them. Saved a bundle. Another idea is to freeze the food in ice cube trays, and then put the frozen cubes into another large ziploc for storage. Then you can defrost the food one block at a time. Not so good when you are on the road, but great if you are at home.

And of course you can get a food grinder and just grind up a bit of whatever you are having for dinner. I didn't do that, and now I'm regretting it, since my child has turned into a picky eater. I've heard if you grind some of the family dinner, that it gets them used to whatever you are serving. Makes sense to me. Good luck! Dawn

Many readers suggested freezing the baby food and defrosting. This is very convenient but you should be aware that freezing and thawing does involve some nutrient loss. Also, some readers suggested just giving the baby whatever the family wa eatimng from the plates of dinner-again this is convenient but many children later develop allergies -at age 2,3-to food that is introduced before 1 year of age (tomatoes,strawberries , peanuts orange, egg s and dairy as well as wheat are common culprits. They can develop into allergies that cause mucus, stufiness, coughing and asthma.) also babies do not need and do not benefit from the salt and sugars we routinely eat in our food, so this another reason not to feed them adult food. Cristina

I am glad that Cristina brought up the list of potential allergens. As a highly allergic person, I was hyperaware of such things, and it never occurred to me to mention them when suggested that table food could be ground and fed to a baby. Of course when preparing your own baby food and grinding food for the baby, you should only feed them food that is OK for them and their developmental stage.

It's probably worth mentioning that one never knows about allergies either. I was very careful about not feeding my baby from the list that was mentioned. But she still developed allergies. Her first was to bananas--a food that is considered highly inoffensive and a preferred first food for many babies, since it's so easy to prepare fresh. She also has a contact allergy to tomatoes, though I waited till well after age 1 to feed them to her. And she has an allergy to soy. I had tried soy-based formula because I didn't want to risk triggering a cow's milk allergy! My point is just that, no matter how hard we try, allergies happen. It's certainly good to avoid the most likely triggers, but if your child shows up with an allergy, it's not necessarily your fault.

Regarding the salt and sugars we routinely eat in our food, I routinely don't add salt in the cooking process, but wait to salt at the table. When I am cooking my own food from scratch (as opposed to making something from a box), there is usually a point at which I could pull out a small amount of food (the peas before they get added to the casserole, for instance) that would be largely unsullied by unnecessary additives. It's probably worth noting that many babies, though, actually LIKE spices (garlic, onion, basil, etc), and will show a preference for food that is spiced over food that is completely bland (one study even showed that babies prefer the breastmilk of mothers who just had a meal with garlic--it comes out in the milk!). All of it in moderation, of course--you don't want to burn your poor baby's mouth with hot pepper sauce!

Christina also points out that nutrients are lost in the freezing and thawing process. This is certainly true, but I can't help but think that it would still be better--or at least not worse--than purchasing jarred babyfood, which is processed at very high temperatures. And when preparing your own, you have more control over whether the produce is organic, for instance. And preparing your own in quantity and freezing it is certainly going to better address the original question--how to not go broke while feeding your baby good food--than is simply purchasing good brands such as Earth's Best.

We're all busy, and we're all broke. That seems to be the way of it, being a parent! But with a little thought and a little effort, we can do the best we can for our babies. I know I don't manage to do the best all the time, but I figure every time I make an effort is better than when I don't. Remember to treat yourself gently, and that you are as important as your baby! Dawn

Thank you to the person who pointed out that feeding babies a number of foods (tomatoes, strawberries, dairy, peanuts, eggs, etc.) before one year of age can trigger off allergies and that babies do not need salt and sugar in their diets. I disagree with the conclusion though that therefore they should not be fed adult food from our plates. We simply avoided these potentially allergy-causing foods before one year and did not salt our baby's food, and we rarily if ever use sugar. (We also eat primarily organic foods.) We found/ find that feeding her what we eat --including a wide variety of ethnic foods-- has been inexpensive, convenient, and seems to please her as she will try and seems to like most anything though we never force a food on her . Andrea

April 1999

I have used and enjoyed The Healthy Baby Meal Planner by Annabel Karmel. The recipes are simple to prepare and tasty enough to make in larger batches for the whole family. The book is delightfully decorated with dancing fruit and vegetables - a treat to the eye as well as the stomach. Rachel

Microwave Cooking for your Baby and Child: The ABC's of Creating Quick, Nutritious Meals for Little Ones by Eileen Behan, R.D. is good. There is also a book called Baby Let's Eat. I forget who the author is. You might find used copies at children's resale stores. Good luck. Debra
hi, this is a repeat of advice i sent to someone else who asked a similar question. we really love this book at our house: Feeding the Whole Family: Whole Foods Recipes for Babies, Young Children and Their Parents by Cynthia Lair. The author is a nutrition counselor who has written articles ocassionally for Mothering Magazine. The book mentions their website: www.feedingfamily.com but i haven't checked it out. I couldn't find the book around anywhere, but Diesel Bookstore on College Ave. in Oakland ordered it for me and had it in less than a week. (please support local bookstores instead of buying online!) It's a vegetarian cookbook that includes sections on why feed your family whole foods, well balanced family meals, why buy organic, and how to make changes. Recipes are divided into the following sections: bustling breakfasts, lively luchboxes (this section had indeed livened up our lunchbag/lunchtime repetoire), soothing soups, substantial suppers, vital vegetables, fresh breads and muffins, sauces and stuff, wholesome desserts and natural drinks and brews. There are also sections on starting your baby on whole foods, attracting your children to healthy eating and basic grain and bean cookery. each recipe is followed by sections for babies 6 months and older and for babies 10 month and older. The idea is not to cook separately for the babies, but to adapt what you are making for the family. My partner, our 10 month old and I have loved everything we've tried from this book. It's easy reading and the recipes are very straightforward. Most of them don't take too much time. We've had to add some staples to our pantry like umeboshi vingear, mirin and a few other things. This book has made it easier for us to eat healthy, tasty meals. buen provecho Susan