Strained and pureed commercial baby food and baby food pouches are a reasonably recent invention, and—as far as I’m concerned—one of the first mass-marketing boondoggles (along with disposable diapers) to ride into mainstream market acceptance on the wave of the baby boom generation. Before that, babies nursed or drank cow’s or goat’s milk for their first several months, and then slowly started eating homemade baby food made from tiny bits of soft, mashed adult food.
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That’s still a good plan. The U.S. Surgeon General and other authorities recommend that babies be fed breast milk only for the first 6 months of life. (And if you need to use formula instead, just make sure you’re using a clean one: here are the 5 most alarming ingredients found in baby formula) After that, there are other options besides store-bought baby food.
Preparing your own baby food from scratch is super-easy, saves you money, and keeps those foil pouches and tiny glass jars from being created, shipped around, and put into the recycling stream, all of which will cut down on pollution and greenhouse-gas emissions.
Perhaps most important, by making your own organic baby food, you can keep pesticides and other toxic food additives out of their diet. Babies are far more sensitive to these chemicals than adults are—due both to their size and the rate at which they are building their brains and bodies. There are more organic, pesticide-free baby-food brands available than ever, which is great. But it's still just as easy, and much cheaper, to make your own homemade organic baby food at home. (Plus, at home, you can make sure that your baby gets a taste of the ingredients that can stave off food allergies and make them an adventurous eater—see 5 science-backed tips for feeding your baby)
You and your baby’s doctor will decide when it is time to start introducing solid food into your little treasure’s diet, and which foods to start with, but generally babies are ready by 6 months.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends introducing one new food to your baby at a time, and watching for allergy, rash, or other reactions for a few days before adding another. The order you introduce them in doesn’t seem to matter, they say, but eventually your baby should be eating a variety of foods every day. (Also: Never feed honey to children under 12 months of age; spores found in honey can cause botulism in infants.)
Your doctor can also advise you on how to make sure your child gets the nutrition he or she needs. But when the time comes, here are some suggestions: