Baby food is any food, other than breastmilk or infant formula, that is given specifically to infants, roughly between the ages of four months to two years. The food comes in multiple varieties and tastes, can be produced by many manufacturers, or may be table food that the rest of the family is eating, mashed up. A common trait of the many different baby foods is that they are designed for ease of eating; either a soft, liquidy paste or an easily chewed food. This is because infants lack teeth and experience in eating.
It is often recommended to give baby solid food at around 6 months of age, but babies differ greatly. The only good way to know when to introduce baby food is to watch for signs of readiness in the child. Signs of readiness include the ability to sit without help and the display of active interest in food that others are eating. Baby may be started directly on normal family food if attention is given to choking hazards, this is referred to as baby-led weaning. Because breast milk takes on the flavor of foods eaten by the mother, these foods are especially good choices.
One may wish to introduce only one new food at a time, leaving a few days in between to notice any reactions that would indicate a food allergy or sensitivity. This way if baby is unable to tolerate a certain food then it can be determined which food is causing the reaction.
In the 20th century, it was common to start infants on solid food from 4+ months onwards – however current research and WHO/UNICEF "Baby Friendly" guidelines recommend only breast milk until at least 6 months of age.
Food for a young infant — Take of fresh cow's milk one table-spoons full, and mix with 2 table-spoonsfull of hot water; sweeten with loaf-sugar as much as may be agreeable. This quantity if sufficient for once feeding a new-born infant; and the same quantity may be given every 2 or 3 hours—not oftener—till the mother's breast affords the natural nourishment.
In most cultures, pastes of a grain and liquid were the first baby food. In the western world until the mid 1900's baby food was generally made at home. The industrial revolution saw the beginning of the baby food market which promoted baby foods as convenience items. Commercially prepared baby foods in the Netherlands were first prepared by Martinus van der Hagen through his NV Nutricia company in 1901. In United States they were first prepared by Dorothy Gerber in 1927. The first precooked dried baby food was Pablum which was originally made for sick children in the 1930s.
Some commercial baby foods have been criticized for their contents and cost.
The demand for organic food began to grow throughout the '60s, '70s and '80s there were no companies producing completely organic baby food until Earths Best Baby Food was founded in 1987 by twin brothers Ronald and Arnold Koss. Since this innovation many larger commercial manufacturers have introduced organic lines of baby food.
Frozen baby food is a form of heat processed baby food that enables lower cooking temperatures by finalizing the product in a frozen, rather than the more traditional jarred, form. Frozen baby food is made by cooking, pureeing and freezing fresh fruits and vegetables. Frozen baby food is an alternative for parents who make baby food at home and freeze it in ice cube trays. Some nutritionists believe that freezing gently cooked ripe produce could be even healthier than cooking under-ripe produce. While major baby food companies have yet to venture into a frozen product, they have been galloping toward organics. Sales of organic baby food have shot up 58 percent in five years, 16 percent in the last year alone, according to ACNielsen.