How to Puree Baby Food – Tools, Tips and Tricks
Unless you are a die-hard baby led weaning advocate, it is highly likely that you will feed your baby puree at some point of your weaning journey. You may be unsure on how to puree baby food though, wondering how to cook the food in the first place, and whether you need any special blending gadgets. I’ve gone ahead and outlined the basics of how to puree baby food, along with a few of my recommendations for weaning. All you will need to think about is what to feed your baby and when.
Baby led weaning vs traditional (puree and finger food) weaning
I won’t bore you with the details of baby led weaning (BLW) vs traditional weaning, as the likelihood is that if you’ve found this page, you’ve decided you will be offering your baby puree as part of the weaning process. Very briefly, baby led weaning methods believe in allowing your baby to explore food at their own pace, and therefore they will only consume foods that they can physically feed themselves. Whilst this may incorporate some puree along the journey, since babies’ hand eye coordination is still very poor during the first year of their lives, this more often means that the baby only eats finger foods, and only very small amount ever makes it to their mouths.
Traditional weaning on the other hand, offers your baby a mixture of being spoon fed purees by their carer, and finger foods for them to explore and gum away on. There are many arguments for and against each method of weaning, but thinking about puree specifically, here are the pros and cons:
Pros of feeding your baby puree
- Less messy than BLW as the parent is in control of the spoon
- It is an easier way to introduce meats and difficult to chew foods at an earlier age, which are often high in vitamin and mineral content
- Less worrying for parents who fear gagging and choking
- You can easily monitor the amount of food your baby has eaten
- Your baby is likely to consume more food at an earlier age and some claim this helps the baby to sleep longer through the night
Cons of feeding your baby puree
- Babies that start on very smooth purees can find it difficult to tolerate texture at a later stage
- Time is required to prepare and store the food ahead of meal times
- May slow down the development of your baby being able to feed himself since he may become reliant on being parent fed
If you require further information on the different weaning methods, guidelines for introduction of foods, meal plans, recipes and more, I can highly recommend the book Weaning Made Easy by Dr Rana Conway. We used this as the basis of our weaning for our son, and although we didn’t follow it to the letter, it really helped us to have some kind of schedule in the early days of his weaning. Since this book also covers foods with higher allergy risks, it really helped us to take a slower approach to these foods after we discovered his cow’s milk and soya allergy.
Cooking food for purees
The most common cooking method before pureeing most food for the first stages of weaning is to boil it. This is because it is recommended you start weaning your baby with pureed fruit and vegetables as they gentle on the digestive system. Boiling until the fruit or veg is soft will make it very easy to puree into a smooth paste, however the downside of boiling is that lots of the nutritional value of the food leaches into the cooking water and therefore your baby won’t be consuming these vitamins and minerals.
Instead of boiling, I can suggest two alternative methods, which will retain much more of the nutritional content of the fruit and vegetables.
- Steaming – suitable for all fruit and veg that you would normally boil. Steaming takes longer than boiling but will retain more nutrients since the fruit and veg do not leach out their water content during cooking.
- Roasting – suitable for most fruit and veg, much more than you would think in fact! The great thing about roasting is that it gives the fruit and veg a lovely caramelised flavouring without adding any sugar. Since most babies have a sweet tooth (since the milk they have been drinking since birth, whether formula or breast milk, is sweet), the caramelisation will be a welcome addition to their puree. Try roasting potatoes, sweet potatoes, apples, pears, courgette (zucchini), peppers (capsicum) and peaches.
Thus far, I have been talking about fruit and vegetables, since these are the foods that are most easily pureed and the food types that you will feed your baby first. Once you move onto feeding your baby proteins, then you should cook the food in the healthy methods that you would usually cook your own food such as grilling, roasting, or steaming, as opposed to unhealthy means such as deep frying, shallow frying or sautéeing. Once these foods are cooked, then you should combine them with other high water content food types such as fruit or veg before blending.
After cooking, your food will need to pureed. When making your puree you will likely need to add a small amount of liquid to it in order to reach the desired thickness for your baby. To do so, you can either add some of the cooking water if you boiled or steamed the fruit and vegetables, or you can add a small amount of formula or breast milk. Remember to consider how you will be storing the puree, and whether it’s appropriate to add formula or breast milk – for example, you shouldn’t add defrosted breast milk to puree that you are then going to freeze, since you should not refreeze thawed breast milk.
There are a few different methods of pureeing and some food types are most suited to certain methods more than others.
- Masher/ricer – potatoes in particular should be mashed or put through a ricer. You cannot blend potatoes, as the processing will break down the starches in the vegetable and it will just become a sticky mess that tastes foul. Should only be used with softened fruit and vegetables, and useless for pureeing proteins.
- Food mill/ grinder – food mills come in various sizes and can be used for most fruits and vegetables. The great thing about a food mill is that it will separate out the skin, pips and seeds too, so you can put more whole pieces of fruit and veg through it and know the bad tasting parts will be strained out. Great for apples, potatoes, berries.
- Hand blender – hand blenders are great as they can be used for all kinds of pureeing including meats, fruits, vegetables, beans and pulses. They are also small so don’t take up much storage space. The main downfall is that it often takes a long time with a hand blender to ensure an even and smooth blend because you have to keep stirring up the mixture to reach all parts of it.
- Food processor – food processors can also come in various sizes, and depending on how much you will use it and what for should determine which size you buy. Similar to a hand blender, you can use a food processor to puree all kinds of food including meat, and as there is usually more than one setting, you can achieve various stages of smoothness for your puree. The only downfalls really are the size of the appliance, and it’s usually a bit fiddly to wash up since you have to take the parts of the bowl apart.
The 2-in-1 approach
Just recently, an array of baby specific products have appeared on the market that can both steam and blend your baby food in one machine, saving you the time and effort of washing more than one appliance. The one which we’ve used and loved is the:
The 4-in-1 aspect of this appliance covers: steaming; blending; defrosting; and reheating of food; it really does everything you would want from one appliance for your baby’s weaning. The appliance has a 1 litre capacity which will be sufficient for a large quantity of puree for your little one. It’s really easy to use, you pop the jar onto the base with your fruit and veg in, set it onto steam mode at the desired timer and then once the timer beeps, you simply flip the jar over, click it back into place and start blending. Once you’re finished, the jar and blade can all be put into the dishwasher, so you don’t even have to wash it up.
It’s worth noting that you can also steam meat and fish in this appliance, just be sure to cut them into small pieces to ensure that they are cooked thoroughly, as the timer for the steamer only goes up to 30 minutes.
I do have to highlight one negative though, in order to use the appliance to defrost and reheat, you have to use the specific Philips Avent storage containers which attach to the unit, and only one is supplied in the box. These can also be purchased quite easily from Amazon though. We never really used this function, and just stuck to our microwave for defrosting and reheating purees.
Pureeing isn’t difficult
It can sound like a lot of work when you think about pureeing in terms of having to batch cook and store your baby’s meals in advance, however don’t feel like there is tremendous pressure to prepare a huge variety of different purees for your baby to try. Until your child is one year old, they are really just getting used to different tastes and textures, and even if they have only tried 20 different foods by that point, then they are doing well on their weaning journey. Honestly, it won’t hold them back in the future, our little boy is now an absolute gannet after being a seemingly fussy weaner.
Please comment below if you’ve had an positive or negative experiences of baby led weaning vs traditional weaning. I would be especially interested in hearing from parents of more than one child who have tried a different weaning method for each – I’m starting to think ahead ready for when baby number two arrives in 2017.
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