Homemade versus ready-made

Choosing to give babies homemade or ready-made food is often a big decision for parents and so ensuring parents have all the information they need to decide what's best for them and their baby is important

Some research has suggested that mums can feel a sense of guilt when buying ready-made baby foods. In addition, the research found that mums often buy baby foods out of convenience, as a distress purchase or ‘just in case’. While convenience when out and about is a key benefit of ready-made food, it can also help to offer variety and introduce little ones to new tastes and ingredients.

To reassure parents, advise them that ready-made baby foods are specifically designed to meet the nutritional requirements of infants and young children. They are carefully prepared to ensure they provide the right balance of nutrients in appropriate amounts and use high quality, baby grade ingredients to do so. Parents can check the labels of infant foods to make sure they’re happy with the ingredients.

When it comes to advising parents, there is no right answer. The correct decision will be whichever works best for the parents, and this will usually be a combination of homemade and ready-made food.

To reassure parents, advise them that ready-made baby foods are specifically designed to meet the nutritional requirements of infants and young children

A huge variety of ready-made foods are available, from cereals to savoury meals as well as desserts and snacks. All products will have a suitable age range on the packaging, as follows:

  • From four to six months

Products have a smooth texture so they are suitable for babies starting to wean. Some are made with one ingredient so babies can get used to individual tastes.

  • From six months plus

Products have a slightly thicker texture, and will start to introduce babies to basic proteins such as cheese and to more complex tastes. Parents can also start to introduce meat.

  • Seven to nine months plus

Products have a mashed texture. Soft, cooked meat such as chicken, and mashed fish can be introduced, as well as pasta, noodles and rice. These foods have different flavours to help develop babies’ palates.

  • 10 to 12 months plus

Products contain small, soft chunks and lumps to develop babies’ chewing skills. 

  • 12 months plus

Products contain much larger lumps of food to further develop the child’s ability to chew. Flavours will also be more adventurous and closer to family meals.

Preparing baby food

Healthy homemade food can get babies used to the type of food the family eats. When making baby food, it is a good idea to make up batches to provide several portions of the same meal that can be frozen or refrigerated for future use. 

When preparing food for the freezer, it’s important to cool the food down quickly by placing it in an airtight container and holding under a cold running tap, stirring the contents occasionally. This should be done within one to two hours. Food stored in a fridge should be used within two days and if kept in a freezer, it will need to be used within three months. Food should be thoroughly re-heated (only once) to ensure that it is piping hot all the way through, and then left to cool before feeding the baby.

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