There’s a flood of variety in the baby food segment and many mums are sighing with relief. The option of ready-made weaning food means an end to all the mashing and grinding at home to make swallowing an easy task. But is packaged baby food as good as the homemade option? We asked around for some opinions…
Words Subarna Ghosh
Illustrations Ajay Paradkar
Homemaker and mum to Srishti, 14 months Indians are traditional when it comes to baby food. But when I travelled abroad I saw that parents of even very young children were buying bottled baby food. I was overloaded with work in the new place and found it really tedious to cook and grind food so thought about giving this a try. I was so happy to find that the pureed apple was of the perfect consistency for my baby who was only over six months at that time! In fact, it was smoother and tastier than anything that I would have made at home.
I used to feel a little guilty about it but the doctors in the US did not think that buying or making made any difference in the nutritive value and advised that if my baby likes the taste, I can go ahead. We used to travel and go out a lot and carrying food in the packaged form was a convenience I could not have survived without. I have seen women take out a whole stack of boxes and spoons and bibs from a huge baby bag to feed a baby. But that looks such a mess and I don’t think that one should make such a big fuss over baby food.
House-maid, 12 weeks pregnant and mum to Rahul, 12 months I would want to give baby food bought from the big shops since that is where the rich people buy their stuff from. I am sure there must be some extra benefits in the bottled food since those kids are so much stronger. My boy catches a cold so easily. He loves Parle G biscuits dipped in milk and sometimes also sips my tea. I make him sit with pieces of chapati and puffed rice when I am busy in the kitchen. Earlier I used to make nachni porridge for him but if I could afford to buy the readymade food, then I could have saved myself some trouble. When my second baby arrives, I don’t think I will be buying readymade food. My elder one has started eating what I cook at home and if things go well, so will my second one, by the time he turns one.
Dr Ravindra Chittal Paediatrician
If not correctly guided, mothers can go wrong with the sequence, proportions or quantity of semi-solid foods. Add to this, the risk of unhygienic cooking and storing of baby food and weaning can go off gear. Advantage of home-cooked weaning foods, however, is the freshness and variety as well as easy transition to home food later on, and its low cost. The weaning foods available in the market follow the gut physiology and hence would be conducive to optimum growth in terms of macro and micro-nutrients. Addition of omega fats, iodine, iron and nucleic acids ensure protective values are added. But they do not contain any preservatives and hence tend to get contaminated if not stored properly since Mumbai is a humid place. Children also get bored with the same flavour being repeated till the tin is over! Ready-to-use weaning foods are convenient while travelling and for working mothers but homecooked weaning foods are good for all.
Homemaker and mum to Neelabh, nine months I can’t even imagine how one can trust some packed and branded product to provide hygiene and nutrition to their baby! And if there are preservatives added, then it can harm the infant to a great extent. I have seen baby food like mashed spinach, chicken casseroles or pureed fruits on the shelves of the baby store from where I pick up my baby’s clothes. But they are all manufactured abroad and then imported to India. Firstly, these are so highly priced that I do not know why I would even want to buy them. Also, the thought they must have been made months back and then marketed makes me feel uncomfortable. And most importantly, I would never ever want to test a new food product on my son. He loves to eat the simple moong dal khichdi that I make along with boiled carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, peas and whatever seasonal vegetable that’s handy. I believe that the nutrition that this homemade preparation can give him, no other packaged product can. Dr Alka Fernandez
Living in India comes with its own set of advantages for parents. The most significant part of our culture is the way the grandparents and domestic help form a network of support. In spite of all this, there’s no reason for us to resort to means that can pose a potential hazard in the future. Even if parents are working, there’s always someone to help in managing the baby’s food preparation at home. Food is a lifelong habit and introducing the taste of home-cooked food will be an advantage when one is trying to establish a proper eating pattern in the child. When you prepare weaning food at home you can be sure that there are no preservatives, no colours and no salt and sugar added. Also the fact that you have washed and cleaned the veggies in your own kitchen gives the peace of mind that the food prepared is clean. One must keep in mind that packaged food is prepared much before it reaches the shelf and even if you use it once, the rest needs to be stored properly. M&B