Bulletin #4309, Making Your Own Baby Food
By Nellie Hedstrom, Extension nutrition specialist, University of Maine Cooperative Extension.
Peer reviewers: Kathleen Savoie, Extension educator, and Jane Conroy, Extension educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Updated in 2018 and 2021 by Kate Yerxa, Extension educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, and Sarah Perkins, University of Maine dietetic intern.
With a little planning, and a blender, a fork, a strainer, a food mill or a baby food grinder, you can make foods for your baby at home. Homemade infant food may help cut food costs, and provide baby with food as nutritious, if not more nutritious, than store-bought baby foods. Making your own baby food will also help baby get used to foods the family eats.
Pureed fruits and vegetables can be prepared from fresh-cooked fruits and vegetables. Use the cooked fruits and vegetables without added salt, sugar or fat. Puree means to put food through a sieve or grinder to make the food into a liquid-like, smooth texture. Some foods, like ripe bananas, can be mashed or pureed with a fork and won’t need to be precooked. It may be necessary to add some fluid (iron fortifield formula, water or cooking water) to other pureed food to make it the right consistency for your baby.
Canned or frozen fruits and vegetables may also be pureed and used. When using commercially processed canned or frozen fruits and vegetables, check the ingredient label. Make sure you are not adding extra sugar, salt and fat to the baby food you make.
Some commonly home-prepared fruits for babies are ripe mashed bananas, and pureed bananas and applesauce. Dried prunes that have been cooked and pureed are another food for baby. Fresh pears or peaches in season may also be soft-cooked and pureed. Fresh vegetables that can be home prepared and pureed include potato, winter squash, sweet potato, peas, asparagus, and green or wax beans.
Later, when your baby is between 8 months through 11 months, table food can be added to her diet. By that time, your baby will be able to move her tongue from side to side, and will have begun to spoon feed herself with your help. She’ll also start chewing with her new teeth, and feed herself with her fingers. With your help, she will also drink from a cup.
At this stage, try feeding mashed or diced fruit, soft cooked or mashed vegetables; mashed, cooked egg yolk; strained meats or poultry; mashed, cooked dry beans and peas; cottage cheese or cheese cubes; sliced bread; crackers; breast milk, infant formula or juice in a cup.
Tips for Making Homemade Baby Food
- Work under the most sanitary conditions possible:
- Wash your hands with hot water and soap, scrub, rinse and dry with clean towel before fixing your baby’s food, before feeding your baby, and after changing your baby’s diapers.
- Scrub all working surfaces with soap and hot water.
- Scrub all equipment with soap and hot water, and rinse well.
- Prepare fresh fruits or vegetables by scrubbing, paring or peeling, and removing seeds.
- Prepare meats by removing all bones, skin, connective tissue, gristle and fat.
- Cook foods, when necessary, boiling them in a small, covered saucepan with a small amount of water until tender. The amount of water is important — the less water used, the more nutrients stay in the food.
- Puree food using a blender, food processor, baby food grinder, spoon or fork. Grind up tough foods. Cut food into small pieces or thin slices. Take out seeds and pits from fruit.
- Test for smoothness by rubbing a small amount of food between your fingers. Add a liquid such as breastmilk, infant formula, water or fruit juice to achieve a desired consistency.
- If pureed food is not being used right away, refrigerate quickly. (If you are preparing baby foods to store in the freezer, wait and add fluids to thin pureed baby food after food is thawed.)
- To freeze: pour cooled, pureed food into a paper cupcake liner or a section of a clean ice cube tray, and cover with foil. When frozen solid, store cubes in a freezer container in the freezer in a freezer bag or box.
- Reheat frozen cube in a heat-resistant container in a pan of hot water.
- When cooking foods for the family, remember to separate the baby’s portion before adding seasoning or spices. Babies need very little, if any, added salt or sugar.
Safe Storage of Solid Baby Food1
|Solids (Opened or Freshly Made)||Refrigerator||Freezer|
|Strained fruits and vegetables||2-3 days||6-8 months|
|Strained meats and eggs||1 day||1-2 months|
|Meat/vegetable combinations||1-2 days||1-2 months|
|Homemade baby foods||1-2 days||1-2 months|
Thawing and Warming Baby’s Food
Here are some suggestions on thawing and warming food for your baby. Frozen food can be thawed in the refrigerator or the microwave oven on the defrost setting. But remember, food that has been thawed should never be frozen again.
Stove Method: To warm food, place it directly in a saucepan and slowly warm over low heat, stirring often. Stir and test temperature of food before feeding it to your baby.
Microwave Method: Microwave ovens heat foods unevenly and cause hot spots. There may be hot spots even if the food feels cool to you. It is important to stir food well to prevent burns to you or your baby. Here are some other tips:
- Put baby food in a microwave safe dish.
- Microwave 4 ounces of baby food for 15 seconds on high power. Stir, and let stand for 30 seconds. Taste test before feeding to baby. Food that’s “baby-ready” should taste or feel lukewarm.
- It is not recommended t heat pureed meats in the microwave. Hot spots in the meat could seriously burn your baby. Instead, use the stovetop for these foods.
Q: Should I avoid certain foods if I make my own baby food?
A: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that high-nitrate vegetables, such as beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, collard greens, lettuce, spinach and turnips, should not be fed to babies less than 3 months old, but there is no need to add aolid food to an infant’s diet until 4 to 6 months.2 The naturally occurring nitrates in these vegetables can change to nitrites, which bind iron in the blood and make it difficult to carry oxygen. This can make it hard to breathe and cause the skin to become blue. Limit the serving size of these vegetables to one to two tablespoons per feeding.
Equipment Needed to Make Baby Food
There is no need to spend lots of money of food processors or blenders marketed only for making baby food. Use the equipment you already have in your kitchen to make baby food.
Sieve/strainer: It should have a small mesh. You can press foods through it with the back of a spoon. It can be used for soft fruits and vegetables, but not meats.
Spoon, forks and potato masher: Use these to mash soft foods, such as most canned fruits, egg yolks, bananas and potatoes, to the right consistency.
Food mills or grinders: You may already have a food mill in your canning supplies, but if you don’t, they are available in stores that sell kitchen supplies. The smaller size baby food mill is similar to the larger version. They can be purchased in the baby section of department stores. It can be used at home or when traveling. The larger mills and grinders are useful when preparing soft meats and both can be used for cooked fruits, vegetables and soft fresh fruits.
Blenders: Your blender can come in handy to prepare food for the baby. Food items cooked for the family can be blended smooth for baby or to freeze for later. Hand-held blenders are useful pieces of equipment that you may want to consider.
Plastic ice cube trays: Use trays for freezing extra food that you prepare. After the food is frozen, remove the cubes and store in a container or plastic bag designed for freezing.
Pureed Baby Food Recipes
Pureed Fruit Delight
1/2 cup freshly cooked fruit (Try apples, pears, peaches or prunes)
Remove skin and seeds. Press through a sieve, or put ingredients in food mill or blender and puree until smooth. Serve or freeze.
Bananas Plain and Simple
Ripe bananas may be pureed or mashed and fed to your baby directly.
1/2 cup cooked fresh, frozen or low sodium canned vegetables (potato, sweet potato, green beans, peas, carrots, yellow squash), without salt added
Cook fresh vegetables or use frozen or canned vegetables without salt or seasoning. (Read labels for ingredients.) Press vegetable chunks through a sieve or baby food mill, or put in a blender. If necessary, thin puréed vegetables with a small amount of cooking liquid, expressed breast milk or formula to desired consistency. If not serving immediately, do not thin before freezing.
Note: After the individual vegetables have been fed several times, some good combinations are: potatoes and carrots, potatoes and green beans, carrots and peas.
Simple Puréed Meat or Poultry
1/2 cup cooked meat (small pieces of lean chicken, beef, turkey or pork)
Cook lean meat (fat and skin removed) over low heat in a small amount of water. Puree meat until smooth. If serving, meat puree can be thinned by adding a small amount of water, reserved cooking broth, expressed breast milk, or infant formula. If freezing, do not add liquid to the pureed meat.
Your Choice Combo Dish
1 cup cooked, cubed or diced lean meat (cut off fat)
1/2 cup cooked rice, white potato, sweet potato, noodles or macaroni
2/3 cup cooked, diced vegetables
Combine and blend until smooth. Serve or freeze in serving-size containers. If you plan to freeze the recipe, white potatoes and pasta do not reheat well after freezing. Instead, use sweet potatoes or rice for freezing the recipe.
Note: If you prepare combination dishes, use them only after you have fed the individual food several times.
1U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Food Safety Concerns for Children Under 5. https://www.foodsafety.gov/risk/children/index.html
2Greer FR, Shannon M. Infant Methemoglobinemia: The Role of Dietary Nitrate in Food and Water. Pediatrics. 2005: 116 (3) 784-786; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2005-1497.
Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.
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