Around 6 months of age, baby will be ready to start trying out foods. There are a few signs that will indicate baby is ready such as being able to stay seated on their own with good head control/ without falling over (talk to your pediatrician to make sure it´s the right time). Around this time, baby´s need for energy and nutrients starts to exceed what is provided by breast milk or formula, and complementary foods are necessary to meet those needs. Monitoring for possible food reactions is especially important when introducing foods, as is providing foods that contribute key nutrients like protein, iron and zinc for adequate growth and development. This is also an important time for baby discover and explore new textures and flavors that will stimulate psychosensory & psychoemotional development. Plus, this is a time for learning habits and eating behaviors that can stay with them throughout their lives.
Tips to get started
There are a few strategies on how to go about introducing foods. Below are tips for the traditional approach that is recommended by AAP (American Academy Pediatrics).
Here are some things to keep in mind during the transition to from liquids to solids:
- Foods should be soft or pureed to prevent choking. The consistency will progress as baby learns to eat.
- Start with small amounts of new solid foods — a teaspoon at first and slowly increase to a tablespoon and then progress in serving size.
- Introduce one “single-ingredient"/new food from any food group every 3 to 5 days. This way you can associate any possible reactions.
- Try one food several times (up to 10 times) before you say baby doesn’t like it. We need to give baby time to get used to and fully accept it.
- It´s important to let baby touch and explore foods. It can get a little messy but it´s very important for their development.
- Be sure to include foods that provide iron and zinc and protein.
- Enrich baby´s food with breast milk, healthy oils such as avocado, olive or coconut oil. Use mashed avocado, nut & seed butters to add calories, nutrients and flavor.
- Do not incorporate gluten until at least after 8 months of age.
- Cow's milk shouldn't be added to the diet until your baby is age 1. Cow's milk doesn't provide the proper nutrients for your baby.
- Babies do not need juice. Babies younger than 12 months should not be given juice.
- Don't give your child honey in any form for your child's first year. It can cause infant botulism.
- Don't use salt or sugar when making homemade baby foods. Canned foods may contain large amounts of salt and sugar and shouldn't be used for baby food. Always wash and peel fruits and vegetables and remove seeds or pits. Take special care with fruits and vegetables that come into contact with the ground.
Should I make homemade baby food?
We are believers that fresh homemade foods offer the best nutrition not only for babies, children but adults as well. That doesn´t mean you shouldn´t or can´t incorporate store-bought foods as well but there are definitely benefits to making your own baby food.
And though it may seem daunting at first, I guarantee you its actually easier than you think. You can batch cook and freeze to have baby food on hand. The first months are especially easy as its mostly all puree food and you don´t have to add much flavor. Its nice for baby to get used to real flavor of fresh foods and not get used to the flavor of processed food. As time progresses, its a good idea to incorporate new flavors with spices, herbs and a variety of fruits/vegetables, etc. that are common to your household as offering a wide variety of foods early will pave the way for good eating habits later.
Benefits of making homemade baby food:
- You know exactly what ingredients and the quality of ingredients you use. You avoid added salt, sugars and unnecessary ingredients so you're in greater control of your baby's nutrition. Be sure to check food labels to see what´s going into baby´s body when you buy at the store.
- It´s fresh- Even if you batch cook and freeze it´s much fresher than what you get at the store. These days, thankfully there are baby food company´s that offer foods with minimal ingredients but still, most are heated to extremely high temperatures to extend shelf life, sometimes they have up to a three-year shelf life, which means the food from the store is most likely older than your baby.
- You can expose your baby to a much wider variety of foods and flavors from vegetables, fruits, nut & seed butters, different proteins, etc. This way not only they get a variety of nutrients but remember that offering a wide variety of foods early will pave the way for good eating habits later.
- Its more affordable- baby food can get expensive, especially if you get the organic kind. You can make homemade healthy baby food with all organic ingredients much cheaper.
- You can make nutrient-dense meals- Some baby´s need extra calories if they are having a hard time eating enough volume so it´s important to enrich foods with healthy oils, breast milk, nut & seed butters and milks, avocado, etc. High calorie foods are hard to find at the store.
- It´s earth-friendly- You can purchase good quality reusable containers that last a life time and stop using all the disposable packaging from baby foods you buy at the store. Using the NutraMilk will also contribute since you wont need to buy nut butters or plant-based milks that come in disposable packaging and you can also puree everything in the NutraMilk.
Check out some recipes here.