Make Your Own Baby Food

Baby eatingMake Your Own (Homemade) Baby Food

Making your own (homemade) baby food is really quite simple, and rewarding! You don’t need any fancy tools or even lots of time. Just spend a few minutes to make a big batch of food that you can store in your freezer and use for weeks.

The Benefits of Making Your Own (Homemade) Baby Food

I think one of the best things about making your own (homemade) baby food is that you know exactly what your baby is eating. Some jars of baby food have ingredients on their labels that won’t have in your fresh batch of food. If you are serving your baby butternut squash, you know the ingredients are butternut squash and water and that’s it! It is also a great way to feed your baby more organic foods (without paying extra for jars of pre-made organic baby food).

Another huge benefit is the taste quality of the foods you are making. My biggest complaint of jarred baby food that you buy at the store is how watered down and bland the food is. If you compare homemade sweet potatoes to store bought sweet potatoes by giving them a taste test, you will be able to quickly recognize the difference in flavor. By making your own baby food, you are keeping foods more concentrated and full of flavor, which will be helpful as your baby grows into those picky-eater toddler stages. Your baby will be used to more flavor (like what mom and dad eat) and like a bigger variety of foods.

Variety is a great benefit to making homemade baby food. Since the baby food you make is frozen in ice cube trays (approximately 1 oz/cube), you can have a four ounce meal with many different combinations of foods. And, if you have a lot of different types of food in your freezer, you can keep meals constantly changing. Additionally, it is easy to experiment with mixing foods for even more variety (try avocado and banana!). Baby won’t get sick of the same old food and will probably look forward to what the next meal will bring! If you do this with jarred baby food, you have to open several jars of food and use them up completely right away so they don’t go bad. (Be sure when experimenting with food combinations and providing variety for meals that you have already introduced the food as the only new food for at least three days to make sure there are no food allergies.)

Price is of course a benefit. You can buy fresh produce, cook and puree it into several dozen ounces for just a few bucks. Jarred baby food at the store is not very costly, but it can add up when you baby is consuming a few jars of it per day. And when you compare it with the quality of food you are getting, making your own food is hands down a better value.

How to Make Your Own Baby Food

Each food that you prepare for your baby has an ideal way to be prepared. Some foods are better to steam, while others are to bake or boil. My favorite web site for knowing the best way to cook baby’s food is www.wholesomebabyfood.com. They also have a great chart that breaks down what foods are appropriate at what ages. Here is a basic rundown of how you make your own baby food:

  • Clean the food
  • Cook the food to soften it
  • Puree the food with a food processor or blender
  • Add water to the puree to make it thinner or add rice cereal to the puree to make it thicker
  • Once desired consistancy is reached, fill ice cube trays (each cube is approximately 1 ounce) with the food
  • Freeze the food
  • Once frozen, put the food in storage bags labeled with the food and date made

Recommended Reading

Get recipes and tips for making your own baby food with these books.

Recommended Resources

We love the Ninja food processor. It’s one of the most affordable food processors available, does a great job and makes it easy to pour into ice cube trays! (And, my baby thinks it is fun to help make food with!)

To Swaddle? How Long?

To Swaddle? How Long?Should You Swaddle Baby or Not and For How Long?

Most parents wonder how long they should swaddle their baby, if at all. The question of whether or not to do it at all is an obvious yes! Swaddling has been around since babies have been (FOREVER) and for good reason. Some people look at swaddling through their adult eyes, not the baby’s, calling it a “straight jacket” and assuming it is too binding and uncomfortable, an unnecessary restriction of movement. The truth, however, is that babies love to be swaddled and it is best to swaddle from the day they are born until they tell you they are done with it. (For videos on how to swaddle, click here.)

Safety First

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a study in May 2005 suggesting that swaddling may reduce the chances of SIDS and that babies who are swaddled have fewer night wakings and fall back to sleep more quickly. They also suggested that swaddled babies are more responsive to outside stimuli (which means they may wake up more easily if something is wrong).

Womb To World Is a Shock

When babies are first born they are in total shock. All the comforts of a tight, dark, warm womb with the constant loud swish of mom’s heartbeat have been replaced with bright light, new sights and sounds and no more security of being snug all the time. While most of the elements of the womb are hard to replace for your baby, a tight swaddle is an easy way to give them the cozy, cradled, secure feel they miss.

The Startle Reflex

Newborns are born with the Startle Reflex, also called Moro Reflex. The Startle/Moro Reflex is when a baby will startle and spread out her arms and legs (actually a fear of falling) and possibly cry. While this reflex demonstrates proper motor development in babies up to five months, it can cause sleep disturbances or problems falling asleep.  When babies are tightly swaddled, the Startle Reflex is contained and does not interfere with sleep.

Involuntary Movement

Babies under the age of three months have no control over their arms or legs and when tired, their arms and legs wave and jerk. Babies don’t realize that their limbs are attached to their body, so when flailing arms hit them in the face, they think they are part of the environment, an outside stimulus that is disturbing them. By swaddling, you contain their involuntary movements and remove stimulation that keeps them awake.

Swaddling Is a Great Step In the Bedtime Routine

Starting from the day they are born, you can use swaddling as part of your wind-down/bedtime routine, both for naps and night. Being put in a swaddle is a consistent and recognizable sign for baby to know that sleep is coming. Many babies are ready to calm down and fall asleep as soon as they are snugged up in a swaddle.

How Long to Swaddle

The question of how long to swaddle baby is not as black and white and whether or not to swaddle at all. Almost every resource you look at will tell you a different time as well. Some will tell you as little as one month is long enough and others may suggest swaddling for up to seven or eight months. The important thing to look for are real signs from your baby that she is ready to stop being swaddled. These signs might not be as easy to recognize, either.

Getting Out of  Swaddle Doesn’t Mean She’s Ready to be Done With It

As a baby gets older he is going to get more mobile and be able to move around. And this movement will cause the swaddle to come undone. This is not an indication that your baby does not need to be swaddled anymore, though. Some babies will wake as a result of becoming unswaddled and can only fall back to sleep (and stay asleep) when reswaddled. Another cause of the swaddle coming undone is that babies get bigger and it is harder to make small blankets stay tight around a larger baby. The swaddle wraps with velcro are a fabulous way to keep a swaddle in place on babies as they get bigger.

Experiment

Around three months is a great age to experiment and try unswaddling your baby. This is the average age for babies to find their fingers, which can be very helpful for being able to self-soothe. Some babies, however, might not find their fingers until 5 months, or even later. Leave one of your baby’s arms out of the swaddle (so you can still incorporate it into your wind-down routine for now) and see how he does. Give it a few days, as the first sleep like this will likely be disturbed. If your baby does ok with it after a few days, is able to fall asleep and stay asleep, he is probably ready to get rid of the swaddle. If he is having a hard time falling asleep and wakes often, it is an indication that the swaddle is still needed. Go back to it and experiment again in another month or two. Don’t feel bad about sticking with a swaddle for a while, regardless of what others tell you. I got rid of the swaddle at six months and I hear a lot of success with using it until five months old. Do what your baby needs and feel good about that!

Recommended Reading

To read more about swaddling, we recommend Tracy Hogg’s books, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer and The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems

The Cry It Out Controversy

The Cry It Out/Ferber Controversy on Sleep Trainingsleeping baby, cry it out

The Cry It Out method, also known as the Ferber method, has become widely used and recommended to “train” infants to sleep. Much controversy exists over this method and we are in favor of other, less stressful methods that still provide your baby with the gift of independent sleeping.

The Controversy

There is SO much controversy over the Cry It Out (CIO) method of “sleep training.” There are two sides and, of course, both come with plenty of success stories and horror stories. There are also variations on the CIO method that range from letting your child cry for as long as it takes from night one of implementation, to increasing the time intervals that you let your baby cry before going in to check on her. Regardless of the variation we believe it is best to try alternatives to the Cry It Out method.

Unfortunately, the CIO method has become extremely popular in the U.S. and seems to be the primary method recommended by parents, doctors and sleep-training “experts.” Some may say that since this is the case it must be the best way, especially if professionals suggest it. I happen to disagree. I believe that one reason these professionals recommend it is because it’s very simple. It is black and white. There is no need to understand timing or to read your baby. You just let them cry. It does not require much explaining and any person taking care of a baby can manage it. The other reason is that it works. I will not deny that the Cry It Out method does get a baby to learn to put themselves to sleep. However, I think that there are other ways to teach them this that are less traumatic for both parents and baby.

The Trauma

You hear so many parents struggle with the concept of the Cry It Out method. They don’t like to hear their babies cry for a long time without being there to take care of them. They feel like they are abandoning them and overall it just doesn’t feel right. In my opinion, when something doesn’t feel right and just doesn’t settle well with the core of you, then it probably isn’t the best method for you. If you do decide to implement the CIO method despite the unsettled feelings, you can feel guilty, sad and even like a bad parent. Many parents that do the CIO method say that they end up crying while their baby is screaming in the other room. This is a traumatic experience and no way for any parent to feel. Having confidence in your ability as a parent is essential for your family to function in a healthy way.

The trauma to the parents is undeniable as there are numerous reports from parents who have done it. They can tell you how they felt. The trauma to the baby is harder to convince people of, however, because a baby can’t tell you in words what they experience. You have to be in tune to a baby’s way of communicating and there number one way of communicating is through crying. If you pay close attention you can hear differences in the cries of your baby. A cry for hunger sounds different that a cry of discomfort, tiredness or pain. Parents can get to know these cries and be able to recognize what their baby needs. A baby who is left to cry it out has an obvious distressed cry. It is not a mere cry, it is a scream and a deep call for help. When a baby first begins to cry for one of their needs it is just a cry, but when ignored a baby gets stressed and their emotions rise. No person that has listened to a baby cry and one that is being left to cry can deny the difference in the sound of these cries. And the cry tells us that the baby is stressed. Many babies that are being left to cry it out start hating their bed, or even their bedrooms, as they associate them with the trauma of being left. Obviously, as adults, we realize that if we let our babies cry we are not going to abandon them forever. But, babies have no way of knowing or understanding this.

Problems with the Popularity of Cry It Out/Ferber Method

Other than just the stress of the method, there are other problems with the popularity of the Cry It Out method. Since it is such a simple method, many parents decide to try it without educating themselves on it first. This causes some parents to do it much too early. Even the proponents of the Ferber method say that babies younger than four months old can not and should not be left to cry it out. However, many parents want to do it with newborns much too early, as exhaustion sets in. This is unfair to a baby, causes unnecessary stress and may even deny a baby of essential needs (like suckling).

Another problem with the Cry It Out method is that some parents will decide to try it without a full commitment to it. They will start to let their baby cry, but as the emotions of the method start to sink in and it tears at the parents, they go in and change their minds. And many parents will go through this cycle of doing it and not doing it multiple times. This means that a baby was left to cry for no reason because it was not seen to the end and this is likely an even greater stress to the baby as he has no way of understanding what is going on and what is supposed to happen when he is left to cry for a length of time (he never learns independent sleeping).

One of my biggest complaints about the Cry It Out method is that many well-meaning parents have to resort to using this method when a child is older (old enough to have learned independent sleep for several months) because they got into habits that taught the baby not to sleep independently. Some of these habits are: feeding to sleep, rocking to sleep, never putting the baby in the crib when she is awake, not having the baby on a routine and lack of a proper wind-down prior to sleeping. The parent did not do everything they could to encourage healthy sleep habits from the beginning, but the baby has to be abandoned and left to cry to learn it. It is far better for a parent to take steps to encourage independent sleep, even if bad habits have already been developed by the parent, than to pull the rug out from under the baby and do a complete 180.

Let me point out that I do understand that in all of these situations parents have no ill-intentions. Parenting is hard, especially when you are sleep deprived with a newborn. I do not want to condemn any parent that has made these “mistakes” or make them feel bad. These are just some of the reasons I am not in favor of Ferberizing.

Finding The Balance

Having an infant that is able to put herself to sleep is extremely important for the entire family, whether parents, baby or siblings. We know that there is a way to achieve this without having to Ferberize your baby, no matter how old he is. The older your child is, the longer it can take to establish good sleep habits, but with patience, consistency and determination you would be surprised at how simple and greatly rewarding it really is.

Check out our article, Alternatives To Cry It Out, to learn what methods you can use to teach your baby to sleep without leaving her to cry it out.

Recommended Reading

To read more about trying alternatives to the Cry It Out method, we recommend Tracy Hogg’s books, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer and The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems

How To Swaddle

How-To Swaddle Videos

Swaddling your baby can take some practice to get it right! If you didn’t catch on to how they did it in the hospital or you are looking for a new way to swaddle, check out these two how-to videos.

Using Dr. Harvey Karp’s (Happiest Baby On The Block) Method:

Using another Unique Method from a Midwife:

Recommended Reading/DVD

To learn more about swaddling and calming techniques for your baby, we recommend Dr. Harvey Karp’s, Happiest Baby on the Block book and DVD.