No pressure here, just good advice on the next steps of your baby’s food journey. By Carolyn Land Williams, M.Ed., R.D., author of Cooking Light First Foods
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Credit: Oxmoor House

Good nutrition is particularly important during baby’s first year for proper growth and development. But there's another reason to make sure baby eats well early in life: Infants who are taught good nutrition from the start will be one step ahead in developing healthy practices for a lifetime.

During the first year, baby’s primary source of nutrition will be breast milk or formula, but beginning at age 4 to 6 months, solid foods can be introduced. As baby’s eating capabilities expand, the kind of foods that parents offer should expand as well. It’s important to offer variety in your baby’s diet

Why make your own baby food?

Although it does require a little more planning and time in the kitchen, making your own baby food provides several benefits.

  • Economics: When made in batches (making more than one serving and storing extra for later), homemade baby food definitely saves money. One large sweet potato costs an average of $1 and yields about three to four servings for baby. Four jars of baby food will cost you around $2 (even more if you buy organic versions). This cost difference adds up when you consider how much food your baby will eat during the next nine months or so.
  • Environment: Homemade food produces very little waste since there’s no packaging or labels. Plus, making food at home removes the energy-consuming steps of bottling, packing, and shipping commercial products to your local store. We encourage you to shop at your local farmers’ market for in-season produce for freshness and flavor.
  • Health: Making food gives you complete control over what your baby eats, which means you can avoid preservatives, colorings, and fillers that have no nutritional benefit. This can be especially important if your child has food allergies or is at risk for developing them.
  • Variety and exposure: The possibilities for purees and dishes are limited only by your creativity. Rather than sticking to the basics offered on the baby-food shelf at the store, you can expose baby to a larger variety of tastes and textures when you make the food yourself. Some research has indicated that exposure to a wide variety of textures and tastes by age 1 helps make the transition to table food easier.

Is homemade food right for you and your baby?

Millions of children have been nourished and have thrived on store-bought baby food, and you aren’t less of a mother if you decide not to make every bite of food from scratch. There are pros and cons to both homemade and commercial foods, and only you know what is best for you and your child.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing decision. Maybe you start by making a few simple purees and decide it’s very easy. Or perhaps during busy weeks of balancing work with an older sibling’s soccer games, feeding baby store-bought food is the best answer for your sanity. Either way, you’ve already made an important step by carefully considering the importance of what your baby eats.

Excerpted from Cooking Light First Foods, Oxmoor House, © 2010 by Time Home Entertainment Inc.