Easy Baby Foods to Send to Daycare
Every parent knows that starting solids is equally exciting and daunting. If your baby is in daycare, you’ll need to make sure they have food that’s appropriate for them to eat throughout their day.
When sending baby food to daycare, here are some critical things to consider:
Don't send anything your baby hasn’t tried yet. You don’t want daycare teachers to discover an allergy!
Pack food your baby reliably eats and likes.
Don’t send any food that other kids are allergic to. Many daycare rooms have restricted foods that can’t be served. Peanuts, dairy, and eggs are commonly restricted foods.
Send the right amount of food for your child — expect babies aged 6-7 months to eat 1-2 tablespoons in one sitting. A 9-month-old baby may eat up to a ¼ cup of food in one sitting.
Check with your daycare’s rules around baby food. They may only allow you to send unopened food containers, and properly date anything that’s homemade.
If you are unsure which foods are appropriate for your baby, consult with your pediatrician. Here is a simple list of commonly acceptable foods for each age, six months through ten months.
Simple Purees to Send to Daycare
Purees are a great way to introduce flavors, foods, and nutrition to your baby.
First Stage Purees
When starting solids, single ingredient foods are best. Each puree should include one single fruit, vegetable, or starch. Vegetables and starches should be cooked before pureed. Add a little water, breast milk, or formula to thin it to the right consistency for your baby to easily swallow.
Apple (cook before blending)
Chickpea (remove the skin)
Tomato (remove the skin)
Peach (remove the skin)
Second Stage Combinations
Just because your baby is new to eating, doesn’t mean they won't like big flavors. Once your baby is comfortable with the process of eating (taking food from a spoon, swallowing, etc.)—and you’ve ruled out common food allergies—you can start to combine foods together in purees.
Oatmeal and cooked apples.
Spinach (or kale) and blueberry.
Banana with a small amount of peanut butter.
Mango and beans.
Yogurt and mango.
Pear and cooked rice or quinoa.
Avocado and pea.
Sweet potato and chicken.
For babies who may not love certain textures or flavors on their own (like cooked meat, or leafy greens) more complex purees are a great way to add nutrients to your baby’s diet.
Smoothie—combine fruits and veggies with healthy fat, protein and fiber. Add in items like chia seeds, cooked kale, ground flax seeds for fiber; nut butter or coconut milk for fat; cinnamon for flavor.
Soup—make vegetables and protein more palatable by cooking them and blending with broth. Don’t be shy about adding in some extra flavor with small amounts of spices and herbs like parsley, ginger, garlic, or onion.
Meat and starch—while it may seem strange at first, a great way to add some protein into your baby’s diet is to blend it with other flavors like cooked rice, pasta, or quinoa. Think cooked pasta with tomato and meat sauce.
Tips for Making Homemade Baby Food
1. Get the right consistency.
Purees should be thinner for younger babies. This makes it easy for your child to move the food around in their mouth, and it prevents choking. To thicken purees as your baby grows and becomes more adept at swallowing, you can add cooked white rice, oatmeal, baby cereal, cooked lentils, or banana to any puree.
2. Best tools for making baby food.
Most purees are best made in a blender. But if you are making small batches, you can consider a baby food mill, or an immersion blender. Just make sure there aren’t any chunks that may cause choking.
3. Follow food safety guidelines.
Anything cooked or pureed should be served to your baby within two days of making. You’ll likely have extra, so it’s great to freeze some before those two days is up (an ice cube tray makes perfectly small sized portions). To thaw any frozen food, place the food ice cubes in the fridge for 6-12 hours before serving.
Ideal First Finger Foods for Daycare
If you like the idea of baby-led weaning more than spoon feeding purees, you aren’t alone.
Here are some tips when sending finger foods to daycare:
All cut fruits and vegetables should be refrigerated. If your daycare doesn’t provide refrigeration, you’ll need to pack food in a cooler lunch box.
Teething crackers are a great vessel to spread purees, avocado, or nut butter on.
Simple BLW Foods
When babies first start eating solids, most of the experience is about exploration. The first few weeks are less about the amount of food that gets swallowed and more about your baby becoming comfortable with food. One of the best ways they learn is by touching it, smashing it, and exploring it with their hands.
First finger foods should be large pieces that your baby can pick up and hold, but also soft enough that it can be easily squished between two fingers.
Cooked sweet potato wedge
Cooked apple sliced thick (keeping the skin can help hold the apple together, but don’t let them eat it as it’s a chocking hazard)
Cooked broccoli floret
Thick mango slice
Toast sticks with any puree or spread (avocado, nut butter)
Well cooked beef, pork or chicken, large enough to hold and suck on
Tips for Choosing BLW Foods
When giving a new eater finger foods it’s important to get the proportion correct. A general rule you want food to be approximately the size of your index finger—approximately four inches long and thickness easy for a baby to grab. Make sure it’s big enough that the whole piece can’t fit in their mouth at once.
Food shouldn’t be too slippery or too small, these will be hard to pick up until your baby develops a strong pincer grasp around nine months.
Don’t serve anything too sticky, hard, crunchy, like whole nuts, crackers, raw carrot, or a spoonful of peanut butter.
Making Your Own Food Versus Store-Bought Baby Food
It’s hard enough being a new parent, if making your own baby food sounds too hard, there are many baby food options you can buy. While it is often more expensive to buy pre-made food, there’s no shame in it.
Most grocery stores have a full aisle of jars, pouches, bars, teething crackers, and first finger foods that you can buy to send to daycare. Many baby food brands make it very clear on their labels which stage each food item is best for—first food through toddler stage food.
There benefits of making baby food at home include: knowing all the ingredients your baby is eating; controlling quality and freshness of the food; and saving money as it's often much cheaper than store-bought food. With packaged food, the benefits include convenience and many of them are shelf stable.
Baby Food Safety Rules
If you are cooking food to serve, make sure it cools completely before serving so not to burn your baby’s mouth. Some infant spoons have heat sensitivity that can cue you into when food is the correct temperature. Never heat any food made with breast milk or formula. Only add these to previously cooked food.
Most babies prefer food to be warm or room temperature. When pulling food from the fridge, allow it to come up to room temperature for 15 minutes before serving. Food that is left out longer than 3 hours shouldn’t be served.
Baby food has a shorter shelf life than many other foods. Purees especially should be eaten within two days of opening or making. Finger foods can be eaten two or three days after making/cutting.
To store food longer than two or three days, freeze purees in small portions, and freeze finger foods the day they are made or cut. Take frozen portions out of the freezer and thaw in the fridge for 6-12 hours before serving.
For more information on food safety for infants and toddlers, see this FDA food safety resource.