Being a pediatric dietitian, I had pretty lofty ideals when it came to my own son’s introduction to solid foods. I had dreams of making everything from scratch with my baby food steamer/processor using only organic foods. I also intended to introduce foods one at a time, with only one new food every 3 days. It quickly became apparent that my ideals were not practical or realistic to do 100% of the time as a full time working mom. Making food from scratch takes time. Also knowing that between 4-6 months old is a window of time to introduce foods to prevent allergies, I realized there are a lot more foods to introduce than can be fit into a 3 month window using that system. Easier said than done!
Here are a few things I learned from my own experience, combined with my expertise as a pediatric dietitian:
- While it is a more affordable and more optimal nutritionally to make all of your baby’s foods, it’s OK to buy some too. A good alternative to homemade is organic baby food purees. Be sure to look on the ingredient list to check what is actually in the jar or pouch. Many baby foods name several exotic and nutritious vegetables and fruits on the label, but the first ingredient is actually apples. Apples are good, but maybe not for every meal!
- If the food is not 100% organic, that’s OK too. Parents have enough guilt to live with on a daily basis, so don’t beat yourself up if all organic all the time is not in your budget. Just try to make your baby’s diet as balanced as you can with lots of fruits, vegetables, protein, and a variety of grains.
Many baby foods come as mixtures these days, especially in the pouches. Here are a few thoughts about this:
- It is good to expose your child to a good variety of foods between 4-6 months, but it is still ideal to introduce just one new food at a time, especially when you are first starting solids. It is especially important to give some of the common allergenic foods alone, such as grains, egg, dairy, soy, nuts, and fish. That way if your baby has a reaction to one of these, you will have a better idea of what caused it.
- Keep in mind that eating a mixture of kale, pears, broccoli, and kiwi, for example, is not at all like eating any one of those components alone. It is important that as your baby is getting old enough to eat finger foods and more textures, that you give these foods alone in their true form so they learn to eat them as they are growing up.
As soon as your baby can tolerate more texture and has been introduced to lots of different foods, he or she can eat much of what you’re eating, and you won’t have to make or buy as many special foods just for baby.