Once your baby is ready to begin solid foods (usually by 6 months), the question of what to feed her becomes front-and-center. Are store-bought foods good enough or is homemade better? The bottom-line reality is that both options can provide your baby with the nutrition she needs. For this reason, many moms wind up choosing to use a bit of both, rather than one or the other. Here’s what to consider.
Store-Bought Baby Food: Potential Benefits
Convenience. Store-bought baby food comes in serving-size containers, which means preparing a meal is fast. Single-portion containers are also portable.
Nutrition. Most baby foods are made with high-quality ingredients that provide the nutrition your baby needs. Reading labels can help you offer your baby a variety of foods and avoid choices with added sugar and salt.
Safety. Baby food is manufactured under stringent government guidelines, so you can be assured that it’s safe to eat.
Variety. Baby foods offer a wide array of choices and flavor combinations, including things you may not care to cook yourself.
Store-Bought Baby Food: Potential Downsides
Cost. You can make baby food for less money than you can buy it premade.
Loss of control. You can’t be sure what’s in baby foods unless you read the labels carefully. Some foods contain additives, salt, and sugar that you may not want and your baby doesn’t need.
Nutrient quality. Some studies show that commercial baby food is less nutrient-dense than homemade food, due to added fillers like sugar and starch. You can avoid these ingredients by checking the labels and choosing carefully.
Homemade Baby Food: Potential Benefits
Price. Just as with adult food, it’s generally cheaper to buy and prepare your own than to purchase ready-made.
Control. You select the raw ingredients and seasonings and prepare it exactly to your tastes and the consistency your baby needs. So there are no unwanted additives or preservatives, and there’s no need to read a label to find out what’s inside.
Nutrition. Because you start with whole foods, this is a nutrient-rich way to feed your baby, if you offer a wide variety.
Family preferences. Because the baby food you prepare can be a modified version of the food the rest of the family is eating, your baby may grow accustomed to family fare more quickly.
Homemade Baby Food: Potential Downsides
Time. Cooking and mashing may not take a lot of time, but it’s more time-consuming than screwing off the top of a jar. Before your baby can manage the same foods as the rest of the family, you’ll be preparing two versions—one for your baby and one for everyone else.
Less portable. You can transport containers of homemade baby food, but preparing it, keeping it cool, and cleaning the container later is slightly less convenient than tossing a recyclable jar into a diaper bag for a meal on the go.
Safety considerations. You’ll need to be sure to use very clean equipment in preparing the food. Although it will keep for 1 or 2 days in the refrigerator, take care not to serve it again from the same container. It’s also safest not to reheat leftovers more than once.