Food | Infants & Toddlers | Baby Food
| Introducing Baby Food
| Making Baby Food
| Top 10
Generally, the following are favorite first foods as documented by Sears:
- Rice cereal
- Barley cereal
- Carrots (See note about nitrates below)
- Squash (See note about nitrates below)
- Sweet potatoes (The Baby Book 223).
Some research indicates to avoid certain foods that may contain nitrates. Nitrates are chemical compounds found in soil and water. Foods that may contain higher levels of nitrates are:
- Green beans1
- Carrots1, 2
- Collard greens 2
- Beets1, 2
1American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 784
2Sears, Happy Baby 176
Nitrates can cause blue baby syndrome which is a potentially fatal type of anemia where the baby's cells are robbed of oxygen. Commercial baby food companies are suppose to screen their baby food for nitrates yet all baby food may contain some nitrates (Sears, Happy Baby 176). According to the AAP, "nitrates from foods do not pose a significant threat for babies older than six months" (Sears, Happy Baby 176). Generally it is recommended to wait to introduce solids until your baby is close to six months anyway. In addition, if you use organic products to make your baby food it should have less nitrates "because although nitrates occur naturally in soil in small amounts, a significant source of nitrates is the chemical fertilizer used in growing conventional foods" (Sears, Happy Baby 176).
It is also important to note that surprisingly a lot of the first foods recommended are also ones that can cause constipation. We had this problem with our baby and thus we avoided foods like bananas, carrots, rice cereal, barley cereal, and apples.
Our first favorites were:
- Oatmeal cereal
- Green beans (See note about nitrates above)
- Sweet potatoes
3Should help with softer stools. Other foods that may help would be plums and apricots (Greene 159). For one of our babies, we gave peaches, pears, and prunes almost with every meal to help with bathrooms. Our other baby didn't usually have any bathroom issues but we still tried to avoid giving too much of the constipating foods. We also used oatmeal cereal rather than rice or barley cereal as our doctor said oatmeal is not as constipating as rice and barley cereals. When first introducing cereal, you may want to introduce a baby rice cereal like Happy Baby as it is wheat free and gluten free since you will also want to pay attention to allergy-prone food. According to Sears, the foods that account for the 90% of food allergies in children:
- Cow's milk products
- Egg white
- Tree Nuts (almonds, cashews, and walnuts)
- Wheat (Happy Baby 167 - 168)
A lot of sources recommend waiting until over a year to start the allergy prone foods. Food "such as cheese, yogurt, baby cereals, teething biscuits, breads, egg yolk, mild fish like wild salmon or cod, and tofu" can be started around nine months (Happy Baby 168).
I've heard that some people recommend starting the baby with vegetables rather than fruits so the baby doesn't get use to the sweet taste of the fruits. (Another reason to avoid additives like sugar.) I initially started our baby on both fruits and vegetables and our baby always loved vegetables especially green beans, peas, and sweet potatoes. For awhile, our baby wouldn't eat any fruits (possibly due to his acid reflux and the acidity of the fruit) and thus he actually preferred vegetables. Please refer to the article on "Introducing Foods" for more information.
Buy Food or Make Own?
With my first baby I was intimidated about making my own baby food, so I resorted to buying baby food. Had I known how easy it was to make my own baby food I would have simply made it. If you are like me and think it is too hard to make your own baby food, it truly is simple! Even if you do not cook a lot. If you cook one meal a week then it should be easy for you to incorporate making at least some of your baby's food. You don't even need a cookbook.
For example, both of my kids really liked sweet potatoes. All you need to do is
- Peel the skin off of the sweet potato.
- Cook the sweet potato (I like to steam it).
- Puree the sweet potato using the water you used when cooking the potato until you get a good consistency. Some people like to use a blender if they don't have a food processor.
- Put in an ice cube tray.
- Once frozen pop out the cubes and store in a container in the freezer.
- Microwave a cube for approximately 30 seconds when ready to serve. (Make sure you stir well to eliminate all of the hot spots.)
Video demonstration showing how easy it is to make your own food coming soon.
Why would you make your own food when you can easily buy it? It is generally more cost effective to buy and make anything rather than buying it prepared and making your own also helps because you can prepare the baby food in smaller portions thereby eliminating wasted baby food. Preparing your own baby food may allow you to serve your baby food with more nutrients since "[j]arred foods are prepared using very high heat, and this heat processing actually destroys certain vitamins in the food" (Happy Baby 170). That said, with my first baby he only ate jarred baby food because at the time I was intimidated about making my own baby food. Then when I started making him finger foods I realized I could have easily made his baby food, it is the same process all I needed to do was puree the food.
If you are buying all of your baby food, you may want to try the frozen baby food and buy organic. Although, it is nice to have some jarred baby food on hand for outings as it does provide easy alternatives when you are traveling as you don’t have to worry about keeping the food cold and/or warming it up. Even if you plan to make all of the food, buying some baby food or at least browsing the baby food aisle can give you inspiration of combinations of food to try to keep your baby interested.
The "Making Baby Food" article for more information.
Buy Organic if Possible
When I did buy baby food I only bought organic baby food, to avoid food grown with pesticides, and/or fertilizers and food made with synthetic ingredients, please refer to the "Serve Organic" article for more information.
Please note that "babies are more vulnerable to the effects of pesticides and chemicals in our food supply than adults" (Sears, Happy 24). You may ask, why? A few reasons documented in Happy Baby: The Organic Guide to Baby's First 24 Months are that babies:
- Eat more food, pound for pound than adults (dose of chemicals will be higher)
- Eat same foods over and over (increasing exposure to any chemicals in chosen foods)
- Pesticides & environmental chemicals are stored in fat (something babies and young children have plenty of)
I love the following quote, "[s]erving baby organic food is similar to baby-proofing your house. It's something you do to keep Baby safe and well during the years when she's most vulnerable" (Sears, Happy 23).
Our doctor also recommended to buy the organic baby food and she said that it will actually help when you transition to regular food since she felt it tastes more like "regular" food. This is probably because some of the non-organic brands have additional, unnecessary ingredients which I wanted to avoid anyway. I found an organic brand I really liked which my Babies R Us always had in stock; I bought mostly Earth’s Best organic baby food. Earth's Best had a lot of different varieties and they seemed to be as natural as possible. My baby’s favorites were the green bean casserole (green beans, water, garlic) and sweet potato and cinnamon (sweet potato, cinnamon, water.)
When I discovered the Happy Baby Probiotic baby cereal, I came across the Happy Baby frozen baby food which I was very interested in. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it in my local store, until I finally started shopping at Whole Foods. Whole Foods also carried Plum Organics which is another frozen baby food and packed in 4 ounce re-sealable and BPA-free containers. By the time I discovered these, my first baby was no longer eating baby food. I didn't have a need for the frozen baby food with my second baby since I made all of my own baby food.
Read Label for Ingredients
It is important to read the ingredient listing on the back of the baby food containers to make sure you know what you are giving your baby. Some of the food titles can be misleading. Here is a comparison of ingredients in Beach Nut versus Earth’s Best baby food:
Beech Nut Pasta Vegetable Medley DHA plus + contained the following ingredients:
Water, carrots, tomato paste, pear puree concentrate, enriched macaroni product (wheat flour, niacin, ferrous sulfate, thiamine, mononitrate, riboflavin, and folic acid), rice flour, fructooligosaccharides, romano cheese (made from partially skimmed cow’s mile, cheese cultures, salt and enzymes), DHA, oil (DHA algal oil, high oleic sunflower oil, ascorbyl palmitate, sunflower lecithin, tocopherols).
Earth’s Best Organic Spring Vegetables & Pasta contained the following ingredients:
Organic Vegetables (Organic Peas, Organic Carrots, Organic Spinach), Water, Organic Wheat Flour, Organic Pasta Rings (Organic Whole Wheat Durum Flour), Organic Tofu Powder (Organic Soybeans), Organic Canola Oil.
I’m not sure why the Beach Nut product was called a Vegetable Medley as I didn’t see many vegetables listed although I think I got lost in the words I couldn’t pronounce or spell. Although the Beach Nut product did contain DHA, which this building block is suppose to be important for the baby’s development.
Avoid Additives Such as Sugar
When buying baby food, I always tried to avoid the baby food that contained sugar such as some of the Gerber baby food. I did like to buy the plain organic Gerber baby food such as the green beans, peas, sweet potatoes, pears, and prunes. It was nice to have the plain food in addition to the mixes. Most of the Earth’s Best Level 2 and Level 3 items were mixed with something, such as green beans and rice (which my baby really liked) but I didn’t think I always had to give him rice with his vegetables.
If you are making your own baby food, remember the baby will initially like things that are not flavored so avoid adding sugar or salt to the baby food. Once the baby is use to the plain food, it is fun to add some spices like cinnamon to the food; I tried to keep sugar and salt out of my baby's diet as long as possible. Please remember to develop good habits early as discussed in the "Introducing Baby Food" article.
Introducing Foods and How Much
What are the steps to introduce baby food? Please refer to the "Introducing Baby Food" article for tips. For a high level, review, please refer to "Top 10 - Get Baby to Eat." Also, please refer to "How Much" to find out norm amount a baby eats.
Most research recommends to offer only one new food at a time and wait between 3 days to a week before offering another new food. I generally waited at least a few days when introducing each food as if you do offer multiple foods at once and your baby does have a reaction then you won't know what food caused the reaction.
Top 10 - Get Baby to Eat
10. Make sure baby well rested.
9. Make sure no medical reason (like acid reflux or allergies) baby not eating well.
8. Space out meals from bottle/breast feeding time.
7. Try, try, and try again (10 times rule)
6. Develop good habits early, make baby food, buy organic baby food.
5. If you have to, use some tricks like tv time or holding your baby.
4. Camouflage with foods she does like.
3. Let baby play in the food.
2. Eat with your baby, she learns by example. And the #1...
1. Enjoy meal time with your baby!
Overall, I urge you to try to make at least one baby food item yourself whether it is pear sauce, apple sauce, or a sweet potato. I understand you may not have time but it truly is easier than you may think. But if you truly don't have time or simply do not want to make your own food than you may want to consider buying organic baby food. I prefer the brands which contain simple ingredients I’ve heard of with no additional sugar. My favorite baby food was Earth's Best jar baby food or if you wanted to buy frozen baby food I liked HappyBaby. Please refer below for some of the web sites for baby food:
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)."Infant Methemoglobinemia: The Role of Dietary Nitrate in Food
and Water. Pediatrics: Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
116 (2005): 784-786.
14 September. 2011
Greene, Alan M.D. Feeding Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Program for Healthy, Safe Nutrition During
Pregnancy, Childhood, and Beyond. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2009.
Sears, Robert W. MD., F.A.A.P. and Amy Marlow, MPH, RD, CDN. Happy Baby: The Organic Guide to
Baby's First 24 Months. New York: Harper, 2009.
Sears, William M.D., Martha Sears, R.N., Robert Sears, M.D. and James Sears, M.D. The Baby Book:
Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby - From Birth to Age Two. New York: Little, 2003.
Last Updated: August 2011; December 2009