• Sat, Apr 26 - 9:27 am ET

Why I Make My Own Baby Food

baby eating yam pureeThis morning The New York Times has an article about parents making their own baby food and how that is negatively affecting the baby food industry. I was interviewed for the piece, which mentions that sales of baby food have been on the decline since 2005. This was a surprise to me, considering every time I go online or to a grocery store there seems to be some new food product or baby food delivery mechanism. And I buy some of them! But I also make my own baby food. Here’s why.

In the New York Times article, moms (including me) listed reasons why they are turning away from store bought food:

“Today, moms are 50 times more busy and don’t have the cooking skills that women did when we introduced baby food 80 years ago,” Mr. Boutelle said. “But the category is so bad that they’re going to the grocery and spending an afternoon boiling and cooking and filling jars and sealing them because they don’t like what’s on the shelf.”

I actually don’t think this is totally true. I’m continually impressed by the baby food that can be purchased and easily fed to my baby. But I still end up making a lot of food for Max.

It’s easy!

OK, not the whole steaming/mashing/ice cube tray part of it. When I first got pregnant, I thought: “I love to cook! I will love this baby! Someone bought me the Beaba Baby Cook! No brainer!”

The reality was a little different. For starters, the Beaba Baby Cook is basically a waste of money. I was so excited to get it because I have a tiny New York City kitchen and thought I could use that to replace my other tiny blender (“And it also steams! How awesome!”). Well, in reality I should have kept my old Cuisinart. But now that my son is over purees, I just roast up a bunch of vegetables that he can eat throughout the week.

No really, it can be easier than feeding him from a jar

My son loves to feed himself. So a lot of the food I give him is not cooked at all. And if I chop up a banana or a strawberry, I can also do something else in the kitchen. And he’s happier feeding himself. I don’t have to fight him for the spoon or worry about him getting puree all over his face and stuck in his eyebrows and slowly growing hair. Of course, I still get strawberries or watermelon or whatever else dropped on my floor, but there are always going to be casualties in a baby feeding session. Keeping those to a minimum is usually my goal.

As you can see in this video we took when we fed Max his first “solids” in his $15 Ikea high chair, Max wanted to start feeding himself IMMEDIATELY:

It is so much cheaper!

My quote in the Times article basically outs my perennial cheapness. “For me, it’s more cost-efficient to roast some vegetables than to spend $1.50 on a pack of food.” My son Max LOVES those baby pouches. And we buy them and they make life so much easier when we’re traveling or low on food in the fridge. But try as I might, I have not been able to find a better bulk price.

Every time my son gets bored in the middle of a tiny, expensively packaged, store bought food item, my insides hurt. What a waste. Meanwhile, whole vegetables are way cheaper and I don’t mind as much if he doesn’t finish what I’ve made him. Potatoes cost about a dollar a pound and Max eats maybe a 1/2 cup of roasted potatoes at a sitting? That makes me feel better when he inevitably drops them on the floor.

My son hates purees

I was so bummed when I started making baby food and realized I was wasting my time. In the fantasy world I had created where my son seamlessly transitioned from breast milk to my delicious homemade baby purees, I neglected the fact that my crap Beaba chopper could not puree a real live carrot as well as some company that does this for a living. Earth’s Best’s carrots were smooth and buttery. Mine were chunky and grainy and tasted like dirt. Great!

However, my mood was soon brightened by the fact that my son got bored of those pureed jars of food as well. I’d eat my lunch and feed him some pureed green beans and he’d look dejectedly at my sandwich like a little street urchin. “Please mum, can I have some sammich?” So I gave him a little. And inevitably, he was happier eating that than anything I painstakingly pureed or bought for him. So I started doing that more. And now I make sure that when I made dinner, I make some extra portions of vegetables and other soft things that I know he’ll eat and like. That usually gets him lunch and dinner for the week without too much effort on my part.

“Baby food” is kind of a lie?

Again. I buy baby yogurt and pouches of food and those puffs that are basically crack for babies. But I thought I would be making baby purees or buying them for a really long time. In reality, my son lost interest in them in less than two months. And when I went to my doctor, she told me even before he stopped that I should just be feeding him whatever we were eating. Sure, you have to introduce foods slowly to make sure your kid doesn’t have allergies. But there is a really small time in a baby’s life when he or she NEEDS to be eating purees. Yes, there is an entire industry created to fill that need, but just because things are being marketed to you doesn’t mean you need them.

Now I find I’m just feeding Max whatever I can that is easy to chew. (For instance, I make these zucchini pancakes that he is obsessed with and store really well in the fridge.)

And while this may just be another one of those wishful parenting moments, I’m hoping that eating things with spices and flavors that adults eat will help him be a good eater as he gets older.

Your baby can eat whatever you want him/her to

I know that some of the ingredients in prepared baby food (like weird preservatives and such) are not great, but there are plenty of companies have learned that parents want natural (and often organic) food for their babies. However, each parent has their own preferences on what they want a baby to eat. And it’s just hard to mass produce that. For instance, I put garlic, rosemary or sometimes cinnamon on the potatoes I make Max, but I wouldn’t really want to buy that in a jar.

And this is probably the biggest reason that people like to make the food that their babies eat: because it puts them in control. No matter what you think is important to for your baby to be eating, if you make it yourself, you know it’s what he or she “should” be eating.

RECIPES FROM MOMMYISH:

Stupidly Easy Zucchini Pancakes For Your Baby
Busy Mom’s Cooking Hacks: 5 Unbelievably Easy Crock Pot Foodie Meals PLUS Bonus Reader Recipe
Busy Mom’s Cooking Hacks: Buy Yourself A Damn Crock Pot And Stop Eating Sad Food

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  • Natasha B

    A awww he’s adorable! And I agree with you-we pretty much skipped buying purée and just handed the kids whatever we were eating (mashed or softened of course) and they always preferred that. I tried some of those pouches with the littlest, because I was like ‘oooooh FAAAANCY!’, but she would just give me dirty looks and want what her big brother was eating. Makes it easier in the long run, I guess.

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  • Lackadaisical

    There are many noble and worthy reasons to make your own food for your baby, but I would be lying if I said our home made baby goo was because of health or love or some such thing. For us it was all about the price. Baby food can be so expensive. We filled what were like ice cube trays but larger and froze them to store ours. The only time our youngest used shop bought was when we went to the beach as squeezable pouches squeezed straight don’t the spoon meant less sand in her food.

    • bookworm81

      We didn’t do purees at home at all but those pouches are awesome for the beach!

  • Music Mamma

    I made our own because my daughter needed more iron and so I just put fresh spinach with everything (mango, pear, etc). Totally worked.

    • the_ether

      Hah, that’s like me and green smoothies. I hate salad but I love me some weird coloured breakfast drink

    • Rachel Sea

      My favorite smoothie is tropical fruit with kale. The color is appalling, but it’s so delicious.

  • Alexandra

    I thought the NYT article was pretty funny since I was making
    my own baby food in the late 70s! I found a small plastic food
    grinder that worked great and just puréed whatever we were eating
    in it. Sorry that I can’t recall the brand. Another Alexandra

  • Sarah

    I fed my baby what we ate mostly because I’m cheap and lazy. I don’t want to sit there spoon feeding you a pureed meal, I want to eat mine! Baby food is expensive, tastes like garbage and pureed food makes me gaggy. I would rather eat a bowl of my own vomit than pureed lasagna.

  • Katherine Handcock

    I made purees for my son, and he loved them; my daughter would have NOTHING to do with anything other than what we were eating. The first real meal she had was Shanghai noodles (spicy ones, too!) at a restaurant off my husband’s plate – prior to that, she wouldn’t eat more than a spoon or two of anything. We assumed it was because she wasn’t that interested yet, but apparently she just felt we were keeping the good stuff for ourselves!

    In retrospect, I wish I had just fed my son what we were eating too. It’s so much easier to just squish parts of your own meal than to pre-make baby food.

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  • Ursi

    I think it would be nice to be able to control the sodium content. And also to introduce spicy foods in small doses earlier. It’d be easier not to have to hold the sriracha in dishes for a young eater who couldn’t do spicy. Get them started early, that’s what I say! Wish my parents had done it for me so I wouldn’t have missed the best of Mexican and Thai food in my teens.

    I do admit, I picked up a bottle of pureed veal in the baby food aisle just to see what it could possibly taste like. It was delicious. Misgivings about jarred meat aside, the professionally packaged stuff isn’t half bad.

    • Natasha B

      I agree with this so much! My hubs is Vietnamese, so sriracha and fish sauce are staples in our meals-and the littles get the good stuff too :)

    • Guest

      I don’t remember the author, but check out Hungry Monkey, it’s a

  • darras

    I do it because I’m cheap. That’s the be all and end all! My baby loves my home made purees and tends to turn his nose up at the jars (weirdo), so I guess that worked out cheaper. Hurrah! That and he LOVES bread.. Bread is the bestest in all the world (that and water melon which has stained my waterproof tablecloth pink. Who knew watermelon stained?? not me that’s for sure).

  • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

    I don’t know if Canada just has better food standards, but I have been to so many grocery stores and looked at all the brands and labels and ingredients and I have never seen a jar or pouch of baby food that contained preservatives or salt or anything other than the fruit & veg, lemon juice and asorbic acid.
    Anyhoo, my 1-year-old gets a mix of finger foods, and his daycare gives him normal food, but I routinely give him pouches of Baby Gourmet. Why? Because he expects to eat as soon as we get home and after working all day I don’t have the time to fix him things or prepare a meal for just me (Because my husband won’t be home for another 30-120 mintes depending on the day) to share with him.
    Yeah, it’s expensive. But it saves time, it’s highly nutritious, it tastes great and my freed-up time is worth the cost. When my son is older and can wait longer between meals and our schedules get more in synch, I’ll transition to family dinners. And it’s not like I mind at all giving purees and my son is happy to eat those or normal foods or whatever. God love him.
    I applaud making your own baby food, but I am growing weary of the odd people in my life questioning me on why I don’t do it more too. It’s like not breastfeeding all over again.

    • Harriet Meadow

      The Gerber and Beechnut purees that I’ve seen here in the US (and the pouches) also no longer contain preservatives or salt. Usually citric acid is the only preservative. I was astounded at how much flack I got for feeding my baby Gerber foods (I do live in Boulder, where people are hippies), because “ZOMG all the additives,” and when I showed one of the moms who was criticizing me the ingredients listed on the Gerber Spring Veggies pack (spinach, carrots, peas, water), she was like “I don’t trust that.” Of course you don’t trust it, it doesn’t fit your pre-set world view. :/

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      Yeah, I fed my kids Gerber, and I’m thankful that was right before this ridiculous trend of making your own baby food or you’re a terrible person began. Jesus, like a new parent doesn’t have enough shit to do. Gerber’s fine. Both of my children (and me) are quite healthy.

    • Melissa

      I was about to hand my 19-month old one of the Gerber Graduates fruit and yogurt smoothie pouches for a snack (I usually buy the organic pouches but none were on sale and these were) and I’m glad I read the label first because they do add sugar to these–about 20 grams of sugar in that little pouch! I was annoyed that Gerber felt they needed to add sugar to baby food and it kind of turned me off that brand.

  • Harriet Meadow

    I was totally on the “we are buying jarred food because I’m too damn lazy to think about food too much” wagon, but it turned out not to be so easy. We did (store-bought) purees for a couple of months, but even though our son only has two teeth, he LOVES adult food and started rejecting the jarred food early on (to be honest, I would too – I like the fruit and veggie ones, but have you ever tasted the pasta and “meal” ones? They are NOT good)! So I just make sure that I have a meal planned that has easily-chewable protein, some starch, and lots of veggies, and we’re good to go. The only “baby food” we buy now is baby yogurt, because it’s made with whole milk instead of reduced-fat milk, and I make sure I have cheerios and lots of fruits on hand for snacks, etc. The best thing is that doing things this way is better for my husband and me, too, because we always have a well-balanced meal!

    • Jessifer

      My son hates the pasta and meal ones! He usually eats pretty much anything without hesitation but one spoonful of it makes him wince and gag, no matter what kind.

      I do buy the pouches with fruit/veggie puree. Some of the combos seem weird (broccoli, peas, and pear?) but it works, likely because they put so much fruit in it you can’t taste the veggies. I use it once in a while when I’m in a pinch but I don’t want to do it too much because I also want him getting accustomed to eating savoury flavours, not just sweet.

    • Paul White

      wait, how are the fruit ones? I feed them to geckos but I can’t say I’ve tried it myself

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      Good. AND DESSERT! I stole bites first, not gonna lie.

    • AP

      True stories: My sister was baby food aged when I was four and I fell in LOVE with the pear puree. I still remember it as being sooooo good. (Seriously though, we make apple sauce all the time, pears are sweeter and yet no pear sauce? This is a serious culinary oversight.)

      When I was in 8th grade, packing baby food for lunch became a trend. It was nasty to watch everyone chowing down on their strained peas and chicken.

    • Kitsune

      I don’t know if there’s one near you but Trader Joe’s makes a pear sauce that is delicious.

    • Rachel Sea

      You can make pear sauce easy. I bake D’Anjou pears with a little lemon juice and a dash of white wine, and they blend down beautifully.

  • Marie

    You’re so lucky that your son wanted to go straight to “real” food. My son got sort of hooked on purees. Maybe it was partly because he was really late in getting his teeth (none until 13 months and no molars until almost two!) but he had no interest in textures of any kind and would spit out anything that had even the tiniest lump! He just refused to chew! I would see his cousin chowing down on meat chunks at 14 months or other kids eating crackers and pieces of fruit at 10 months and my little guy would throw everything on the floor and wail until we spooned yogurt or pureed food into his mouth. I got so sick of blending things that I wanted to throw the stupid blender out the window! I even went and got him an evaluation by a speech pathologist to see if there was a swallowing issue. He did grow out of it eventually, but I used to look at those babies who wanted to go to real food right away with envy.

  • Ptownsteveschick

    My daughter would not eat pre made baby food. She acted like it was poison. I’m not a super crunchy mom by any means, but I took the hint and started making all her food. She went from eating nothing to chowing down on everything. I also loved being able to cook a huge batch of food and then just need to heat it up later. I will do it again for sure.

  • C.J.

    I did some of each for my older daughter, she ate everything and anything. My younger one refused to eat pureed anything, not even masked potatoes or applesause. I just had to cut everything up really small and she would chew it with her gums.

  • Paul White

    My son hated hated hated purees.

    So we said screw it and feed him right off our own plates (cutting it up tiny). Worked like a charm and didn’t involve much extra cooking. It also cleaned up our diet (oh god I’d love chicken fried steak, fries, and a long island…but I don’t want Sam eating that!)

    • darras

      haha! Awesome! I do have a question though, if you don’t mind. Because I want to start giving my son food from my plate at dinner too but I worry it’ll be too hot for him. Did Sam have an issue with the heat of the food?

    • Paul White

      Well, we waited a couple of minutes. And when cut stuff up into small pieces it seems to cool off a lot faster too. We basically tested a small bite before we started feeding him to make sure it wasn’t too hot.

    • darras

      This is so helpful! Does he eat things like curries and rice meals?

    • Paul White

      we don’t eat a ton of curries, but the few times he’s tried them it’s been OK. He’s not a huge fan of rice though…but neither am I

    • Erin Murphy

      I can only imagine how awful an asparagus diaper is

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      One of my kids was (and still is) a big complainer that food is too hot. We used to cut it and then put it in the freezer for about a min. before we served it if we knew it was something he’d complain about.

    • StarHopper

      My son pretty much insists on feeding himself with his hands (since about 10 months or so), and if he touches a piece that is too hot, he puts it down and tries something else. Also, if you spread the food out flat on a plate, it cools down a lot faster than if it were in a bowl.

    • Lilly

      I did the same from the get go, never bought any baby food and only initially mushed up food with a fork but switched to small pieces really early. I will say I found it way easier to deal with then what a lot of friends with kids described doing.

      For temperature, I found that the small pieces cooled really fast so waiting a minute or two was fine.

      For curries, we did a fair bit early on but tended to do vegetarian ones (lentil and potato based). I would omit the heat but leave the fragrant spices (cumin, coriander etc) to give my son the taste of strongly flavoured food without have to stress about hot spiciness, but at 2.5 now he can eat fairly spicy food.

      This type of feeding/weaning falls under the category of “baby led weaning” so books about that might be helpful or Ellyn Satter’s books.

    • darras

      You guys are awesome with all the advice! Now I need to figure out how to get my husband and I to eat our own dinners early enough for the baby to share.. He insists on going to bed at 6, dinner at four and well.. My husband doesn’t finish work until 3.30. Maybe he needs to have yesterday’s dinner or something!

  • SarahJane86

    I hate baby food pouches. They taste like nothing. It might be labelled spaghetti, but it tastes as far removed from spaghetti as paper. Sure it only has mince, veggies and pasta in it, so it’s probably not bad, but it tastes awful. It reminds of this one time that I ate frozen meals for a long time, nothing in the food that I wouldn’t put there myself but so boring.

    I was concerned that I’d wreck my kids’ palate or they’d get really bored with eating. So I made my own stuff. Annabel Karmel’s Lovely Lentils recipe. I’d eat those by the bucket.

  • ChickenKira

    Price here too.
    Why would I pay $2 for a jar of half a smooshed apple when I can buy a whole bag of apples for $2, and make 10 jars of half a smooshed apple? Sorry baby food industry, I’m on a budget.

  • Kelly

    I didn’t have any issue with store bought baby food but I made my own most of the time. I just thought it was easier. I always had fruits and vegetables around the house and a lot of times I just mashed up whatever we were eating.

  • kay

    I buy snacks for baby, puffs and mum mums and such. And OMG I didn’t read through the labels and there’s Gerber cookies (I was getting a treat for her Easter basket) with high fructose corn syrup in it! I emailed them and they said “most of our products don’t contain HFCS. But some do”

    WTF.

    My baby’s favorite foods are waffles, hummus, oranges, and paper. Gerber doesn’t make that flavor combo anyways.

  • Katie

    My mum made all of our baby food (I’m 20 and my youngest brother is 10 months, five very spread out babies). But after 20 years of doing it with varying methods (baby bullet, blenders, and forks when she burnt out the blender with my little sister), she says she wouldn’t change. It’s cheap, it’s healthy, and when we develop an allergy, it’s a lot easier for her to figure out what it is.
    My little sister had store food for two weeks, max, when the blender broke because she refused any sort of lumps. In that two weeks, she got a rash and bad diapers and she cried all the time. My mum tried different brands, different meals, all that. Turns out my sister was allergic to one of the preservative agents. We didn’t even know that was a thing.
    It was a lot easier to figure out my allergy. My mum gave me strawberries, I got hot, itchy, red and sleepy. Still can’t eat strawberries to this day. But if that was a baby food jar, it could have been seasoning or preservatives or just a cross contamination in the factory that we’d never pin down.

  • CW

    Sorry Beech-Nut, a lot of moms won’t buy your processed stuff no matter WHAT ingredients you put in them. Homemade baby food is part of the whole AP lifestyle and just like lots of moms are anti-formula, lots of moms are anti-processed baby food. I made my own food long before it was trendy just because I’m frugal, but doing so definitely gave me “mom cred” by the time my youngest child was starting on solids.

  • Guets

    All I can think of when I see baby food is when my cat was sick we had to feed her the meat baby foods. I can’t imagine feeding it to a baby now…

  • Myriam

    They make refillable food pouches! Fill them with your own food, or store bought in larger containers!

    • BW2

      I found them very difficult to use. They don’t contain a lot and very messy to fill and clean.

  • geckomommy

    Those little Plum or Ella’s Kitchen packets are healthy and convenient, but SO expensive. We keep a few in the pantry for when we don’t cook and need to give her something quickly, but I agree with you, I thought the pureed food phase would be much longer. It was really two months, or less. My daughter is 8 months now, and still eating things like mashed up peas or sweet potato, but she also ate handfuls of penne and tomato sauce for dinner last night.

  • Rachel Sea

    One of the stupid baby shower games at a cousin’s shower was Guess the Baby Food Flavor. They were all organic, no preservatives, supposedly high quality, but mostly they smelled and tasted positively rank. I would never feed that garbage to someone I liked.

  • Backdoorlover

    My mom was feeding us Indian takeout at 4 months old. “Baby food” is kind of a myth… as long as the food is small enough or pureed (when very young), it’s totally fine.
    I make my DOGS food… way easier and cheaper and healthier than pre-packaged.

    PS: Totally ignore my username…

  • Dixie

    I made food for both of my kids. Making your own is so much cheaper. Plus, you can add some seasoning and make it taste good.

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