Making your own baby food is really trial an error mainly because you must take into account your child's taste buds, age, and the texture your choice of food produces once ground.
* Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor a nutritionist. I am a licensed teacher and mother of four children. The information given below is strictly my own opinions and life experiences. If you have questions and concerns about your child, you should address these with your child's pediatric doctor.
There are a variety of fruits and veggies just waiting to be ground; however, you can't get started without a grinder, blender, food processor, baby food maker. Lets start our conversation from here.
I cannot advocate for any particular machine which makes baby food mainly because I have tried many different types through my years of raising my four girls and all of them did the same thing: grind/puree food. My first baby food processor was a cheap 10$ Parent's Choice mini blender. It did the job quite well; however, the cup was small and only made 1-2 jars.
By the time I had my second and third child, I was a pro and made large batches of baby food so I resorted for a blender from my local super market put on "puree" mode . It worked, and I never had a problem. I would freeze the small portions in ice cube trays for a couple of hours and pop the cubes into a labeled (with name of food and date made) freezer bag.
By the time I had my fourth little girl, my sister-in-law had been gifted the latest 100$+ machine that came with silicone molds, plastic freezer jars complete with screw on lids, freezer jar holders, and a book of recipes. I used the contraption basically because it was the "latest and greatest;" however, I found myself resorting to my old blender. The fancy contraption still did not make as much baby food as I wanted. Additionally, thawing the food in the plastic jars took forever and was a headache all in itself. Don't get me wrong, I was super thankful for my SIL's kindness; however, I just wanted something to pulverize my kid's food. It didn't need to be a fancy color, have a fancy book, or be sold at the latest baby store. My solid opinion is to invest in a good blender. As my children have aged, baby food has turned into healthy breakfast and snack smoothies that the baby blender could not have made enough to feed them with. I will admit that I went back to my old Parent's Choice baby food processor to bake and cook with. It was a great little gadget to have for many years and served me well. When my oldest turned 14 years old, it decided to die. My $10 had been spent well.
Moving on to food. I tried to make several different types of food for my children. We always started with vegetables. I had learned from many parents the difficulty of first trying fruits for your baby only to have them avoid the more bitter taste of veggies. When starting our children on food, we were strategic to begin with a vegetable which would digest easily on their stomach. Our first choice: butternut squash. Not only is this veggie easy to process, but it is relatively cheap, has a bit of a sweet taste, and was readily accepted by all my children. Other fruits and veggies we tried with ease included:
* apples * sweet potatoes
* pears * rice and oatmeal (not a fruit or veggie, I know)
* strawberries * avocado
* bananas * tomatoes
* peaches * broccoli
* blueberries * zucchini
* apricots * carrots
* beets * spinach
Foods we tried and failed to puree properly included:
* Peas- the hulls never really pureed properly
* Green beans- the strings never pureed properly
* Blackberries- the seeds wouldn't puree
* Bananas- turned brown without lemon
* Corn- the hulls were impossible to grind
* Any type of meat
Although I really to make a lot of our own baby food because it saved money and gave me peace of mind as to how my children's food was processed, I also knew my own limits. I tried many foods; however, some were just easier to buy than to make. Others had textures my children would gag or choke on (i.e. corn, peas, green beans) and purchasing a trusted organic baby food was easier and much more palatable to my children.
I cooked each of these foods separately in order to test for food allergies; however, I had a lot of fun with mixing foods to give my girls new tastes. For example: Strawberries and bananas were great together as was avocados and rice or spinach and rice. It was strangely satisfying to mix foods for my kids and every food they ever ate was pre-tasted by me...even the store bought baby food. If the food wasn't palatable to my taste buds (and I'm not a picky eater), then it wasn't served to my children. Keep in mind, that did not mean they didn't eat peas. I would try 2-3 different brands of pea baby foods before I made my choice of the better taste and quality food. Yeah, I know, I was THAT mom.
In the end, I would use my blender/baby food processor and add small cooked pieces with distilled water and grind the food to the desired consistency my girls were developmentally ready to eat. Of course they started out with watery soup-like textured food (i.e. it uses more water to make this); however, it finally progressed to thick potato-like consistency (less water to make) and then to small pieces. We practiced baby-led weaning in our home and no meat was ever served until they were able to self feed small pieces because store bought meat is gross and our organic chicken was impossible to grind.
We must all keep in mind that babies are born with the ability to live off of their mother's breast milk exclusively for the first year; therefore, my children were not lacking in protein or any nutrition vitamins since they were still drinking breast milk. Even if you feed your little one pediatrician recommended formula, the same rings true. Formula is formulated to meet all the nutritional needs of your child for the first year. Don't worry if your child does not prefer some foods. It typically takes 7 tries of a new food for a baby to develop the taste buds to enjoy it. If your child doesn't like a new food, keep trying!
Every child and their taste buds will be different. The important thing is to break out of your own tastes and allow your child to eat foods you may not even prefer. Your child may grow up to eat foods you detest; however, you will never know if you don't train them to try new foods. Sometimes the only way to allow your child to try unique foods is to make your own. The stores only carry baby foods that are more popularly sold which means beets, broccoli, and avocado will be hard to find.
Let us know some other unique mixtures you may have tried or other tactics you have learned which made feeding your little one easier.