What will your infant eat? Grocery stores are lined with safe and convenient commercial baby foods in a wide variety of textures and flavors, but you may also choose to consider a nutritious and inexpensive alternative—homemade.
At around six months, children are introduced to solid foods—usually iron-enriched cereals—to teach them how to swallow and to fulfill an increasing need for iron, especially in exclusively breastfed children, says Diana Mager, a clinical dietitian for GI/Nutrition at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. After cereals are introduced, babies will try vegetables, fruits, and finally meats. New foods should be tried one at a time for three to four days to test against intolerance and allergies.
Making Baby Food
Because infants are more susceptible to germs than adults, baby food preparation tools, ingredients, work surfaces, and hands should be as clean as possible. The tools needed include pots or pans for cooking ingredients—Mager recommends steaming vegetables instead of boiling them to minimize the loss of water-soluble B vitamins—a blender or food processor for pureeing, ice cube trays for freezing small portions, and sterilized jars and airtight freezer bags for storing foods for later consumption.
It's important that your child's first solids be liquidy to prevent choking. "Parents may gradually thicken the texture of the puree from a watery applesauce to a thicker pudding-like texture by seven to eight months. This can be done by adding less water or formula to the homemade preparations," says Mager. "But it's important to give your baby one type of texture at a time because the variety can cause choking." Only after nine months of age should you switch to a mashed texture.
Foods should be kept simple. Avoid spices, seasonings, sugar, butter, and honey, the latter of which can lead to botulism, a food poisoning that can cause serious illness. Do not use canned fruit, which may contain corn syrup, and canned vegetables, often high in sodium. According to the American Medical Association, infants less than a year old should also not consume citrus fruit, which can cause painful diaper rash, and eggs and milk products, which can lead to allergies.
The AMA also strongly warns parents against preparing spinach, beets, carrots, turnips, and collard greens at home as they may be high in nitrates, which can lead to anemia in babies. Commercial versions of these foods are safe for your baby.