Ultimate Guide – How to Make Your Own Baby Food. Everything you need to know to get started on making homemade baby purees – tips, tools, storage methods, recipe combinations, starter purees, intruding new foods and more! Great for 4+ months – Stage 1 Baby Food.
Updated: this post was originally published in February of 2018 and has been updated.
How to make baby food
Are you ready, or starting to think about making your own homemade baby food purees? Then you have come to the right place.
This is very comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about making and serving your own homemade baby food, without stressing out about it.
That’s the key here – don’t stress out about this, it’s supposed to be fun!
Making and searving homemade baby food is easier then you think. Plus, when your baby (and you) want to devour your delicious homemade purees it’s a priceless moment that is worth the work.
Granted, I am about to download a ton of information to you about how, what and when to feed your baby.
So take it slow.
Grab a cup of coffee (or glass of wine) and break this post down into smaller sections so you can digest it (pun intended) over time.
What you will come to realize, is that the once daunting task of making your own baby food purees will soon become second nature to you.
Here are the topics I am going to cover down below. I linked to each section, so you can take this a little at a time without having to scroll for eternity to reach where you left off. I know this process can be somewhat overwhelming, but trust me, you got this!
As always, if you have anymore questions or need a motivational push, just comment below and I will get back to you:)
Reasons to Make Your Own Baby Food
What You Will Need
How to Make Baby Food Purees
How to Blend Produce into Smooth Baby Food Purees
How to Freeze, Store and Thaw Purees
5 Signs Baby is Ready for Solids
How to Introduce Purees
How to Introduce New Foods
Reasons to Make Your Own Baby Food
It’s easy to buy food for your baby, and many brands now tout that their baby food purees, pouches, and snack bars are organic. Given that you do have a choice, why should you cook at home?
The first reason I began making my own baby food purees was simple – I am a control freak. But it was only after I had gotten under way producing the purees that I actually began to thoroughly research. The more I read, the more I realized that not only was I making food that tasted far better than store-bought versions, I was also preparing food that was more nutrient dense and less expensive. On top of that, I had complete control over what went into my purees – the ingredients and spices – as well as their texture. But allow me to go into more detail.
Nothing tastes better than a healthy, homemade meal, and that goes for baby purees as well.
Food always tastes better using fresh ingredients.
Yet most commercial baby food purees are heated to extremely high temperatures so they can last upward of three years on the shelf, which means the food you spoon into your little one’s mouth is most likely older than your baby.
While the convenience of store-bought purees seems ideal for those times you are in pinch, this industrial process kills off most of the flavors, nutrients, and aromas of the produce going into them, leaving purees that taste bland and unnatural.
The ability to control the thickness of your baby’s puree is a tool that will not only help you get though the picky-eating days, but also help transition your baby from purees to solid food.
Whenever my daughter would get bored with a smooth puree, I would simply chunk it up a little.
Different textures are as new to your baby as the tastes themselves, so varying a puree’s texture will not only give her a new eating experience, it will also tantalize her taste buds.
There is no debating that homemade baby food is healthier for your baby than any brand of store-bought food, whether jarred or in pouches, but the biggest nutrition win I feel you get for making your own purees is that you can tailor them to your child’s needs at any particular moment.
Is your baby feeling a little under the weather? Make a puree high in vitamin C.
Low on iron? Add some beef, spinach, or beans.
Maybe your baby is a little constipated. Making a puree with anything that starts with a “P”—pears, prunes, peas, peaches—will soon get your little one back on track.
Baby food that is working for your baby’s well-being is truly a thing of beauty.
#4 QUALITY CONTROL
Since you’re the one who buys the ingredients and handles, preps, and cooks the purees, you can rest assured that you know exactly what’s going into all of your baby’s food.
What you make is what you get!
There are no fillers, thickeners, suspicious ingredients with names you can’t pronounce, shelf stabilizers, or unnecessary water.
By making your own purees, you can also prepare them as you like. Whether you spice it up or chunk it up, you have complete control.
#5 COST SAVINGS
This might come as a surprise to you, but making your own baby food with all organic ingredients is more than 50 percent cheaper than buying their store-bought counterpart.
Even though this wasn’t my main motivator, it does help the budget if your little one is anything like mine and packing away upward of 25 ounces a day. All of that food gets expensive, and mama can always use a new pair of shoes!
Buying produce in bulk from farmers’ markets and produce that’s in season is a great way to save even more. If it’s out of season, frozen produce provides another option for getting the produce you want at a reasonable price.
What You Will Need
It might surprise you, but the tools you need to make your own homemade baby food can usually already be found in your kitchen. Score!
While there might be a couple of items you need to purchase, don’t let that derail you. I started with the very minimal kitchen appliances and tools and upgraded as I kept exploring (and blogging) my way around the kitchen.
KITCHEN TOOLS + APPLIANCES
Blender or Food Processor
Any brand will work just fine. While I have a high-speed fancy blender that I swear cost more then my first car, just know that I was using a blender made for margaritas for my baby purees before I went high-tech (don’t worry, I washed it first:). Don’t let the price of a new blender scare you away from making your own baby food. If your blender or food processor is older, then you will probably just need to add a little more liquid to your baby food then stated in the recipes to get them completely smooth.
Freezer Trays or Glass Jars
This is probably one of the few items you will need to purchase. I love these freezer trays or these glass jars, but you can also get used ice cube trays from the thrift store or dollar store if you are on a tight budget. I have also found that we are always using the trays for a craft or painting project and the jars I now use for salad dressings or homemade beauty products.
Steamer Basket or Steamer Insert
You will nee a steamer basket or insert in order to steam the produce for baby’s purees. I love using a steamer insert rather than a steamer basket because they hold more produce, but either will work great.
Medium and Small Saucepan
Freezer Bags – to store frozen purees
Perminate Marker – to label freezer bags
Reusable Pouches – nice to have for purees on the go, but not necessary
Head over here for all of my favorite product recommendations – Top Tools for Making Baby Purees.
Items Needed TO FEED BABY
This list is a little more fun to shop for because believe or not, I am sure you will want to hold on to and store a couple of these items in baby’s memento box.
Wipes, lots and lots of wipes 😉
How to Make Baby Food Purees
All of the baby food recipes on my blog and in my books are designed to enhance the natural taste of the produce you are using while keeping as many nutrients in tact as possible. The goal is to make a puree that both tastes amazing and is as healthy as possible.
There are several ways you can cook baby food purees, but the main techniques I use are:
Keep in mind – there isn’t a right or wrong way to cook the produce for baby food.
If a recipe for broccoli calls for steaming but you want to roast it because you will already be roasting some broccoli for yourself for dinner, then go right ahead and roast the broccoli for baby’s puree. Play around and have some fun with it.
ADDING SPICES AND HERBS
This same sentiment above goes with the spices as well.
I pair each of my recipes with a spice that complements the flavors of the fruit or vegetable in the puree. I also try to give some alternatives at the bottom of each recipe in case you can’t find or forget to purchase the called for spice at the store. You can either add the spice or herb I have listed in the recipe, add one that you have on hand that you think will taste amazing in the puree or eliminate the spice altogether.
I add spices to my purees from the very first bite. Yes, you heard me, from-the-very-first-bite!
Spices are a great way to boost and compliment any fruit or vegetables flavor and I find that it broadens baby’s emerging palate while also making the purees taste amazing so baby falls in love with the purees from their very first spoonful. I have absolutely no scientific research on this, but based on my findings from my own kiddos, the more foods and spices you introduce to baby early on in life, the more their taste buds will grow and want those yummy foods which helps curb their fussy eating later on in life.
If adding in spices to your purees at the very beginning seems a little much for your baby’s digestive tract or taste, then by all means, skip it. You can always add the spices into your next batch of homemade baby puree.
Another reason I love adding spices and herbs to baby’s purees is that they have medicinal properties in them. Fresh ginger is a great spice to add when baby is having digestive issues. Cinnamon has been proven to boost brain function. Basil is great at repairing muscles in baby’s body which is especially helpful when they start crawling and walking. All spices and herbs have amazing benefits that will aid baby as they continue to grow.
To get a completely smooth baby food puree, you have to give your blender or food processor some time to work it’s magic.
I recommend at least 1-2 minutes of blending for each puree, but it can take longer if you have an older model of blender or you are using a food processor.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you might have to add in extra liquids (water, breast milk, formula or stock) into the blender or food processor in order to get the blender going. Hard root vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, beets, etc) often take at least 1-2 cups of liquids because they themselves do not have a high water content. I recommend adding liquid into the blender in 1/4 cup increments or smaller, this way you don’t add in too much liquid and get a runny puree.
Just Starting: roasted sweet potato and 1/2 cup of water.
30 Seconds: scraped down sides and added in 1/4 cup more of water.
60 Seconds: scraped down sides and added in 1/4 cup more of water.
90 Seconds: add in 2 tablespoons of water, was perfect. Puree was clearly running through the blender and the puree was getting super smooth.
Finished: a smooth puree for the win!
You will know you have the right amount of liquid and are at the right speed when you are get the cyclone effect and all of the ingredients are completely circling the blending without any interference.
Also, while blending make sure to scrape the sides with a spatula to get all the produce and spices incorporated into the puree.
How to Freeze, Store & Thaw Baby Purees
Your freezer is about to become your new best friend, allowing you to keep several weeks’ worth of baby purees at the ready.
Whenever you make a puree, put several ounces in the fridge for your little one to enjoy that week, then freeze the rest of the batch for her to finish up at a later date.
After making your puree, let it cool slightly and then transfer to ice cube trays, glass canning jars, or BPA-free containers made for storing baby food. I prefer using freezer trays so you can serve small portions of puree in the beginning, or have the freedom to mix and match different cubes to create new and interesting combinations.
Cover the ice cube trays with the provided lid or plastic wrap, and place in the freezer. Let them freeze completely before you crack the purees out of the trays and place them in plastic freezer bags. Label and date each bag.
Most purees can be stored for three to four days in an airtight container in the fridge. If freezing them, my rule of thumb is that most produce-based purees can last up to three months in the freezer (avocados and bananas are an exception), while all purees containing meat, beans, or grains will last two months in the freezer.
Thawing may seem like a no-brainer, but it never hurts to know your options. There are three different ways to thaw purees:
Microwave – Take the frozen puree cubes that you want to serve out of your freezer, place them in a glass container, and microwave in 20-second increments, stirring every time. The puree is ready when it is just warm to your touch.
Grab two clean spoons, one for you and one for your baby, and test your puree before serving.
Some infants like their puree cold, warm, or really warm, and some will devour it no matter the temperature. You will get to know your baby’s personal preferences as the two of you bond over food.
Fridge – This one takes the longest time, but it is a great alternative to using a microwave.
Take the frozen puree cubes you want to serve out of your freezer, and place them in glass containers with airtight lids and leave in the fridge for 12 to 16 hours. Do not leave the puree in the container to thaw on the counter or anywhere out of the fridge, as bacteria will start to grow at a rapid rate – which is definitely not good.
The puree will be cold but thawed, so if your baby likes her puree warmed, you’ll have to finish the job using the microwave or stovetop method.
Stovetop – In the smallest saucepan you can find, place the frozen puree cubes you want to serve, and gently thaw them on medium-low heat until warm, stirring occasionally.
5 Signs baby is ready for solids
There is no particular age when your baby will be ready to start eating purees. It just doesn’t happen like that. Age takes a backseat to the signs your baby gives you herself as to her developmental readiness. While pediatricians generally recommend introducing solid food around six months of age, it’s more important that before starting your child on solids you can answer “yes” to most of the following questions:
- Can your baby sit up on her own?
- Is your baby able to hold her head and neck in an upright position?
- Does your baby reach for, or eye, your food while you are eating?
- Is she hungry more often and not satisfied after finishing her usual amount of breast milk or formula?
- Has her weight doubled since birth?
If those questions generate a mix of yes and no answers, it’s no big deal. Just wait a bit. Babies live the lives we adults often wish we could—they do what they want, when they want, no matter what anyone else wants or expects. Your baby might not be ready, even if all of her baby buddies have been eating for months. Your baby might give you all the right indications, but she could absolutely reject her first puree (without a care for all of the love and excitement you put into it, I might add).
Start when the signs are there, and continue to keep trying. At some point, your little one will be ready, and she will open her mouth to her very first bite of food.
Go here for my 5 Tips for Feeding Baby
How to Introduce Purees
High chair? Check. Bib? Check. Fully charged cell phone? Check.
With this holy trinity of baby-feeding accoutrement, you’re ready for that first feed.
The faces, oh, the faces your baby is about to make. Out of all the firsts, feeding was the most fun – and the messiest. So grab a few wipes, double-check that your phone has enough storage for dozens of photos and videos, and let’s get started.
Before you begin, make sure your baby has a little bit of breast milk or formula in her belly: about half of what you’d normally give in a regular feeding.
Not too full. Not too hungry. Just right.
It’s also good for you to have a little food in your own belly. Being “hangry” (the very serious condition in which the state of hunger is so severe that one is driven to anger) isn’t good for anyone.
This is not going to be a clean and simple process. Your baby may eat food one day, refuse it the next, and paint her face with it the next. It’s all okay. Playing with her food is a good thing; it is simply a way for her to explore, learn, smell, and taste the world around her. So have those wipes close by, and remember:
Start slowly. Two teaspoons, once a day, is enough food for babies the first couple of meals. Their bodies need time to adjust and digest this new food. If they are still acting hungry, give them some more breast milk or formula.
Let the baby decide. Your little one should determine the pace of how fast or slow she wants to eat.
All spoons on deck. Have more than one spoon ready. Your baby will surely snatch one out of your hands to play with, which is a-okay.
Have fun. Smile at your baby throughout the experience, and try to relax. The more fun you have, the greater the likelihood your baby will enjoy it too (even if she barely eats or doesn’t eat at all).
After a couple of days, you can build up the quantity of food you offer one tablespoon at a time.
When you’re ready to start the feeding, select a puree you’ve already made, place just one or two teaspoons of it into its own bowl, and slightly warm this small amount. You can choose whether to gently spoon it into your baby’s mouth or hand the spoon over to her to attempt self-feeding. If your baby tries to grab the spoon from you and get it into her mouth by herself, whoa – you’ve got a success on your hands. If the experience is a bit milder, and she lets you spoon some puree into her mouth, enjoy it. This is a winning experience, too.
Some babies will simply not open their mouths. Some babies will take one bite, clamp their mouths, and turn away. If (and when) any of this happens, don’t force the spoon into their mouth, and don’t stress out. Here are a couple of things to try:
Put a bit of the puree on the end of your finger and see if your baby will suck it off. This is an unintimidating way to begin, especially as spoons can be scary for little ones.
Pour a tablespoon onto the high chair tray, and allow your baby to play with it, if she wants. This is a less managed approach to letting the baby explore new food. As babies love to put everything in their mouths, odds are at least some will get in (or near) it.
If your baby has no interest in these options, end the feeding. Dispose of the one or two teaspoons you warmed, and put the remaining, unheated puree in the refrigerator to try again tomorrow.
Remember that before their first birthday, babies receive their main source of calories, vitamins, fat, and protein from your breast milk or formula. At this point, any purees you give them are just for fun, mainly to get them used to eating and exploring real food.
How to Introduce New Foods
Your baby has tried her first puree and is loving it – or at least she’s letting you spoon it into her mouth and giving you a perplexed look. Either way, this is a great start. After three or four days of feeding her the first puree, it is time to work in some new ones.
While there are several different methods regarding which foods to introduce first, my approach is as follows:
Start your baby on a purees made with lots of fruits and vegetables.
Color, color, color!
Slowly mix those purees with fat and protein from naturally raised, hormone-and antibiotic-free animals or fish.
Sprinkle in some ancient grains (quinoa, millet, or barley) straight from the source, not processed from a box.
Above all us, don’t let this feeding process get too complicated. Feed baby healthy and flavorful food and you will see her bond, over time, to nutrient dense foods that are naturally good for her.
Some of the excerpts above come right of my best-selling cookbook Little Foodie: Recipes for Babies & Toddlers with Taste. Click over to purchase for even more information and recipes.