Why I Make My Own Baby Food

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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:

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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.


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