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Nothing excited me quite as much as introducing my son to the magical world of food. May be it is a foodie mom's dream to cook up delicious baby food concoctions. For all those 9 months of pregnancy I got to understand my son's size in terms of fruits and veggies. I could hardly wait to see how my Sweet Pea would react to sweet peas.

When to start?
Usually babies who are formula-fed start solids by 4 months, while breastfed babies start by 6 months. Since I was exvlusively bresatfeeding I decided to introduce him to the world of solid foods at 6 months. I was in no hurry to wean him to solids because he is going to have food in this form for the rest of his life. And honsetly, breastfeeding has been the easiest way to feed; no bottles, no warming up, no cleaning and washing or sterilizing. I did not want those golden days to be over. My son was very content with nursing and I got my pediatrician's nod, so I waited till his 6th month birthday to give him the first taste of food.

Home-made baby food
I decided to go through the traditional way of purees, gradually moving into more complex textures and flavor combinations. I am not a fan of jarred baby foods. The idea of feeding my son an apple that may be a year old and sitting in a jar for months, does not appeal to me. I know the jarred baby food is convinient and hassle-free but I am ready to go that extra mile to ensure that my baby is eating healthy. It is more like I want to be in control of what my baby is eating. In making my own baby food at home I am aware of all the ingredients in it and know that the food has not been processed in a way that compromises its nutritional value.

Purchasing Fresh Produce
I have been buying only organic produce for my son's food as I do not want to expose him to all the pesticides and chemicals so early on in life. Regular produce works well too, but I just feel better about organic food for my baby. Some hard-shelled vegetables do not allow the pesticides to penetrate, making them safe anyway. Buying organic produce is a personal choice, really.

Baby food-maker
I have been using the Baby Bullet for making all the baby food at home. You do not necessarily need to invest in a special baby food maker; any blender will do the job just fine. But I decided to go for a separate baby food maker simply because of the size. My regular blender requires me to make large quantities and the Baby Bullet was just convinient portion-size wise. Once I started making baby food at home, I realized how easy it all is. If you can sqeeze out an hour from your busy mommy-schedule, you can end up making a month's supple of baby food. Personally, making my son's food myself gives me a different high. Experimenting with the taste and texture of the food is just too exciting.

Saving a pretty penny
It is actually cheaper even if you are buying organic fruits and veggies and making baby food at home than buying jarred baby food. Each baby food jar costs about a dollar to a dollar and half. Each jar provides for about two meals. And the cost just keeps adding up. On the other hand, an organic apple which might be some 60 cents can make baby food for a week. Since babies eat such tiny portions, about 2 oz per meal, a single fruit or vegetable can go a long way. You can do the math youself.

Stage 1 foods:
The recommended Stage 1 vegetables are green peas, green beans, carrot, sweet potato, winter squash, zucchini. Stage 1 fruits are avocado, banana, apple, peach, nectarines, pears, apricots, plums, prunes, mango. Stage 1 cereals are rice, oatmeal and barley.

I was suggested by my pediatrician to start with single grain fortified cereals, then vegetables and finally fruits. Among the veggies and fruits, I was told to give the greens before the oranges/yellows (because the greens are not as sweet or as tasty). Consequently, I started giving my son Rice Cereals mixed in breastmilk. He loves it, probably because of the familiar taste of breastmilk. Although avocado is a fruit, I decided to give it to my son as his first food. Avocados are considered a superfood as they are high in unsaturated fats (the good fats), protein, folate, fibre and lots of other nutrients. Avocados also have a creamy texture making it a perfect first food.

Making purees
Except banana and avocado, all the stage 1 fruits and veggies can be boiled or steamed before making purees. I prefer steaming because it retains the maximum nutrients in the food. With veggies like sweet potatoes, you can roast them in the oven before making purees.
If you want to break it down, it boild down to the follwing simple steps:
Wash the vegetables throughly.
Peel them, if need be.
Chop them into small cubes.
Bring water to a boil in a pot and steam the veggies in a steamer basket.
Blend the veggies in the blender using water/breastmilk to the desired consistency.
Divide the food into little storage containers for the refrigerator.
The rest of the food can be frozen into cubes in ice trays in the freezer.

Storing baby food
Freshly made purees are good in the refrigerator for upto 3 days and in the freezer for upto 30 days. If you follow the 4 day rule, where you introduce a new food every 4 days to check for any allergies or reactions, you can keep food for the next 3 days in the refrigerator and the rest in ice trays in the freezer. The day before serving you can bring the frozen food cube to the refrigerator to thaw.

P.S. - It is best to consult your pediatrician before introducing any food to your baby, as every baby and his needs are different.

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