Is DIY Organic Baby Food Worth Your Time?
Making your own baby food has both benefits and drawbacks. Find out if homemade organic baby food is worth the effort.
Making baby food at home from fresh, organic produce can seem like the ideal way to give your baby the nutrients she needs. But making the leap into do-it-yourself meals for your little one can directly affect her health -- and not always in a good way -- so it's important to consider all sides of the conversation.
To understand the pros and cons of making your own organic baby food, we caught up with Ruth Yaron, author of "Super Baby Food," and Elizabeth Pantley, author of "The No-Cry Picky Eater Solution." Here are some factors they recommend chewing on before deciding to prepare baby's organic food at home.
- No additional ingredients. When it comes to your baby's food, hands-on intel is usually helpful. Pantley says that one of the main benefits of making your own food is that you know exactly what your little one eats, down to the smallest ingredient. "When a baby starts solid foods, many parents assume premade baby food is the way to go," she says. But their ingredients lists can often be confusing. "Having control over the amount of sugar, salt and other additives in your baby's food [is beneficial because] you know exactly what ingredients are in the food you're feeding your baby."
- Higher quality, lower cost. "Organic baby food is nutritionally superior," says Yaron. When you opt for organic, you're getting a product that won't have preservatives or other added chemicals, like pesticides or fertilizers. However, buying your own organic baby food can quickly burn a hole in your wallet at 1 dollar a jar. You'll save money in the long run by buying your own organic produce to make at home.
- Environmental responsibility. From the beginning, baby can help reduce the family's carbon foot print by enjoying homemade organic baby food. Portions are customizable and containers are reusable, cutting down on your contributions to landfills. Also, you're supporting environmental practices by avoiding conventional producers who cover crops with pesticides.
- Time investment. You're a busy mom. If you opt for one healthy habit, it seems you're skipping out on another because of your full day. Making your own baby food at home will take more time than grabbing whatever you see at the store. But making large batches and freezing leftovers is an easy way to speed up the job.
- Risk of nitrates. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that commercially prepared baby food is safer than its homemade counterpart because producers are required to test for nitrates. Homemade baby food containing spinach, beets, green beans, squash and carrots may contain high levels of nitrates (which may cause anemia in babies). The Academy says it is better to use low-nitrate foods like yams, peas and corn for babies under 6 months old.
- No preservatives. Organic produce means no preservatives, and that means veggies spoil more quickly. A diligent eye and a proactive plan is crucial, so Pantley recommends a regular routine of making, freezing and thawing so that fresh food is always ready for your baby.
- Added pressure. "Some parents set the bar so high as to create added stress when it comes to feeding their child," says Pantley. "They feel that if they don't create a complete diet of homemade, organic, well-rounded meals and snacks that somehow they have failed. It's best to find a happy balance -- have nutritional goals, but a little flexibility, too." Don't stress if making baby food doesn't fit into your schedule. Do what's best for your family.
- Freezer burn. When making baby food in large quantities, be careful not to keep them in the freezer too long. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, baby food can be frozen for up to one month max. Keep freezer burn in check by putting small amounts of baby food (about a day's servings) into freezer-safe bags. Put the date on the bags so you can keep track of how old they are.
The first years are vital for establishing good habits in children, and nutrition is one of the most important aspects. Though you may be inclined to make your own organic baby food, it's important to consider whether the benefits and cost savings outweigh the time investment and potential risks. "Many times the best answer to feeding baby is a combination of homemade food plus purchased food," Pantley says.
In the end, "a strong, healthy start and hopefully a lifetime of healthy eating habits will be the result," says Yaron.
Bethany Johnson, a professional writer from Washington DC, specializes in the quirks of family life and relationships. When she's not writing, Bethany and her husband raise both free-range chickens and free-range children on their organic farm in the suburbs.
* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.