When I was raising my babies vegan, I didn’t worry much about their eating. I was nursing, and I started them on solid food as a supplement when they were between 4-6 months old. I knew that babies could get really great nutrition from vegan food, as a supplement to nursing when possible and soy formula when it’s not. The reason I wasn’t worried is because there is such an abundance of plant-based food that is full of vitamins, minerals, protein and iron. I didn’t think there was anything difficult about it, and I couldn’t imagine giving a baby a dead animal to eat, it didn’t seem pure like a baby needed.
Plus, it’s very inexpensive to make your own baby food and you don’t have to worry about the chemicals in plastics or strange foreign objects or substances making their way into the food, as you do with commercial food.
I started off with the standard baby cereals mixed with soy formula, like rice cereal, then moving to oatmeal and mixed grain cereal, adding in the whole grain. When they were a tiny bit older, I mashed ripe bananas into the cereal and they loved it. I also gave them mashed ripe avocado, one of nature’s perfect foods that has a great healthy fat in it, what babies really need. I tried to buy organic when it was available. Steaming is a great way to cook veggies for babies, but you can also boil them in a small amount of water in a small pan, and then puree the entire mixture in a blender or food processor, or mash it very well if the baby is a little older. You can use fresh or frozen produce.
Here are some other foods they enjoyed as babies, besides the banana, avocado and baby cereal:
-Mashed ripe papaya
-Pureed well-cooked lentils (with water added). Great source of protein and iron.
-Pureed cooked organic carrots
-Pureed cooked green peas
-Mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes with soy formula or nondairy milk
-Pureed homemade vegetable and/or lentil soup, unspiced/unsalted until the babies approached a year old
-Mashed or pureed well-cooked squash of various types
-Pureed well-cooked green beans
-Fruit puree such as apples, peaches, pears, plums or apricots or a mix, with a little water, juice, soy formula or nondairy milk added
-Leafy greens, such as cooked spinach, kale or collards, pureed with some water and strained
-Spinach pastina (tiny stars)
Any of these foods are easy to mix with some of the powdered baby cereal.
As my babies got older, they got finger foods. Here are some great examples of finger foods to try, as soon as they are ready to chew and to try to grab the food themselves:
-Small tofu cubes (uncooked is fine, let it come to room temperature)
-Small pieces of soft pasta
-Cheerios, preferably from a natural store so there are no preservatives, but still fortified with vitamins
-Soft green peas
-Soaked chopped raisins
-Soft diced carrots. Make sure you are watching closely if you feed peas and carrots. One time, our pediatrician discovered that our son had inserted it into his nose!
-Small pieces of very soft fruit and berries (above mentioned fruits, plus strawberries, blueberries)
-Smashed beans, like kidney beans, garbanzos or white beans. Whole beans without being smashed are a choking hazard.
-Tiny diced vegan hot dogs or burgers, or other vegan “meat” or cheese.
-And for a snack on the go, Veggie Booty!
Whenever you are giving your baby finger food, it’s really important to watch them closely. If they’re anything like mine, they’ll gulp things and that’s a choking hazard. My kids have choked on everything from banana to mango, and I’ve had to flip them onto my knee, belly down, and pound their back to get the culprit out! Because of this, I’ve never been one to give hard crackers or biscuits to babies, or even larger foods than they can eat in one gulp.
I moved the kids toward eating our adult food pretty early, because there was nothing bad in it, no fear of e.coli or anything. I just made sure it was pureed or chopped up adequately. This way, the kids got to partake in all the flavors and spices of “real food” early on, like mushroom soup, rice and pasta, and vegetable dishes.
Storing homemade baby food
You can keep the prepared baby food in sealed containers (preferably glass or Pyrex) in the refrigerator for 2 days, or immediately freeze it in individual containers after it is cooled. I see tiny plastic containers in the stores often. Just make sure you don’t heat it in the plastic. Some people like to put the portions in ice cube trays and pop out the ones you need. If you can cover the tray somehow so it doesn’t get freezer burn, this is fine. I was never a fan of keeping food stored in the freezer for long though. When in doubt, throw it out!