Homemade Baby Food vs. Store-Bought: The Pros & Cons

September 18, 2017

Homemade Baby FoodAs new parents, we want to do what’s best for our baby. Creating a healthy, safe haven for our newborn takes precedence over all else, and once baby is old enough to have solid foods (around 4-6 months), parents begin to discuss if the store bought option or homemade baby food is best for their child. The good news is there are many healthy choices available today, including organic options at the grocery store and recipes available online for making your own baby food. Here’s an overview of some reasons why parents may prefer one baby food option over the other.

When to start solid foods

If your baby is around the age of 4 months, can sit up well with support, and shows interest in the foods he sees the family eating, it’s probably a good time to introduce solid food. Another indicator is your baby should be able to move food to the back of his mouth and swallow it, instead of using the tongue to push food out of the mouth. If your baby is exclusively breastfed, it is recommended that you wait until he is 6 months to start solids. As always, please ask any of the medical professionals at our office if you have questions or concerns about the proper time to introduce solid foods.

Benefits

The benefits of homemade baby food are many. As parents, we want to know what’s in the food we are feeding our little ones. When you make your own baby food, you know exactly what’s in it! Also, many of the pre-packaged baby foods come in only 1-2 variations. When you make your own food, you can get creative with the food that you choose to puree and blend together. This gives your child more variations, hopefully creating a more adventurous eater as they age. One of the main reasons parents like to make their own baby food? From the start, your baby can begin eating the same food as the rest of the family but just in a mashed form.

Advocates of homemade baby food also believe that it’s more cost-effective, although parents with busy schedules may believe the opposite is true. Homemade baby food doesn’t have as long of a shelf life, so it’s important that parents refrigerate or freeze the baby food to make it last longer. Store bought baby food doesn’t require refrigeration until after it’s opened. Jarred baby food is cooked at higher temperatures to kill any bacteria for that longer storage time, but advocates of homemade food don’t like the idea that the high temps also remove some of those healthy vitamins and nutrients.

There are numerous online resources for baby food recipes and many require a simple food processor. Moms and dads alike can make various batches at a time using different fruits and veggies, making a month worth of food in advance and then storing it properly. Online websites like Cooking Light, Parents, and Parenting all offer baby food recipes for parents wanting to try the homemade baby food route. When making homemade baby food for your little one, it starts them on the path of enjoying healthy meals as he or she grows.

Disadvantages

Although it’ll be hard to find parents completely against the idea and benefits involved in baby food that’s homemade, some parents simply do not have the time it takes to make and prepare a lot of smaller servings for their baby. If there’s not enough time in the day, it may not make sense to make baby food in the little “free time” you have. For example, if you are working full time and only get a chance to spend quality time with your baby on weekends and in the evenings, do you really want to be in the kitchen making baby food for hours instead of playing and snuggling as a family?

Pre-packaged baby foods are available in measured amounts and ready to serve portions, making store bought a more convenient option. As mentioned previously, homemade baby food can spoil more quickly and requires proper storage. Experts say that today’s baby food is very pure to begin with, and if making your own food seems too daunting, focus more on healthy table food later and as they grow. Overall, it’s really a short period of time your child will be on pureed food anyway. Depending on your family and your lifestyle, store bought baby food may be the best option, offering more family time and less stress.

Association of Childcare Physicians welcomes any questions that you may have regarding your baby, including nutritional recommendations. We can help navigate you during this very new and exciting time in your baby’s life! Please contact Dr. Shaw or Dr. Kellow at 618-235-2311 or visit our website to schedule an appointment.