My wife & I have nine-month-old triplets (three boys) and are looking for ways to save on baby food. Of course my wife has taken the most obvious step in this process and is breast-feeding them. In addition, she has made some vegetables using the blender and freezing the results in ice trays. This works great. Our biggest expense at this point is the baby cereal. They don't sell it at Sam's or in bulk anywhere that we have looked. Do you or your readers have any suggestions on where we can get baby cereal in bulk or how we can make our own that is as "delicious & nutritious" as Gerber's?
I have five children and breast-fed them all, so I know they had a good healthy start on life. I also did the blended vegetable thing. In fact, I often blended many leftovers from our meals for baby food. Since I was into frugal, healthy cooking, I wasn't afraid of preservatives, fillers, strange unpronounceable sweeteners, and artificial colors creeping into my children's diets.
For cereal, I bought bulk Cream of Wheat and oatmeal and bulk formula with iron (all available at Sam's) and made it up in batches and either froze or refrigerated it. I made it a little on the thick side so it could be reheated with warm formula. If you check the nutritional value of Gerber's cereal and Cream of Wheat made with iron fortified formula, you will find them quite similar. If your pediatrician has a problem with serving your children wheat-based products before age one, use the oatmeal. If your boys don't like the consistency of oatmeal, throw it in the blender on puree.
I have two suggestions to help Wes feed his triplets a delicious & nutritious breakfast. Sometimes I simply grind several cups of rolled oats or brown rice in the blender to form a powder and then cook the ground oats/rice in water or milk in either the microwave or on the stovetop. (Watch them both carefully while cooking since you'll need to cook them longer than a prepared baby cereal; the rice has a tendency to thicken quickly and/or stick and both can overflow in the microwave if you don't put them in a big enough bowl!) Or, when I make oatmeal/rice cereal for my two older children, I'll cook extra and then blend the baby's portion of cooked cereal in the blender.
I buy my oats and rice in bulk through a food co-op, so I am spending as much money on five pounds of healthy organic oats as I would pay in the store for one box of six pre-packaged mixes!
For several tips and recipes for making your own baby cereal, get your hands on Natural Baby Food Cookbook by Margaret Elizabeth Kenda and Phyllis S. Williams (Avon, 1972 and 1982). There is more information than I can type here.
I have two boys, ages 3 years and 10 months, and I'm proud to say I've never bought jarred baby foods or formula. It has saved my family an enormous amount of money, and I know I've given my boys the most nutritious start, beginning with breast milk and continuing with baby foods made fresh at home.
Emily R. in Maryland
For my last two children, I was in the same boat. I bought Quaker Oats (and eventually switched to sacks of organic oats from a food cooperative) and just ground it up to the desired consistency in my regular blender. This can be done ahead and stored in an airtight container or done right before using. I then mixed it with breast milk, water, fruit juice or formula.
Loren in GA
Don't feed them the expensive store bought cereals designed for babies. They are not more nutritious than the breast milk you are already giving them. The 'extra' iron and vitamins those cereals are fortified with is not readily absorbed by a baby and can actually make it more difficult to absorb the good stuff in your breast milk! Several studies are available on this subject through La Leche League and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Depending on how one feels about government programs, where you live, and your financial status, the WIC program may be able to help your family. The WIC (women, infant and child) program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides nutritious food to women, infants and children. In my state (IN), qualifying infants receive vouchers for juice, infant cereal and formula if not breastfed. Breastfeeding mothers also get milk, eggs, juice, cereal, etc. Simple health screenings and educational programs are also available. This program has been around for years and in our state at least is not linked to the welfare program. Nutrition is so very important.
If you call Gerber (the number is on the back of the box) and tell them your situation, they will send you free cereal! I have one child and I called them for coupons and they sent me coupons for 12 free boxes. You could try calling all of the companies. You could also check with a local parents of multiples group who may have some more information.
You may also want to look into regular oatmeal. My daughter liked oatmeal much better than cereal. A lot of brands are almost as healthy as the baby cereals. We always prepared it with formula or breast milk (if we could spare it) and usually gave her a vitamin supplement also.
Congratulations on your triplets! Cream of Wheat may be an acceptable substitute for the Gerber cereal. I have not done a side-by-side comparison, but know that it is fortified with vitamins and lots of iron. It can be purchased in 50-pound bags at restaurant/bakery supply stores for around $10, much less expensive than the small boxes of baby cereal.
Breastfeeding three is quite a challenge, and I'm thrilled you are doing it! There is no better gift you can give your babies. Now, for inexpensive baby food, oatmeal that is put into a blender until it's in fine bits makes an almost instant baby food. Add bananas, bran, prunes, a little finely grated carrot, etc. and you've got a reasonably priced baby food. Also, food co-ops offer good buys on bulk oats, rice, etc. You can do the same thing with brown rice. Run it in the blender (dry) until it's very fine, add boiling water or cook briefly on the stove, and you're ready to add your favorite fruit. I'd suggest brown rice over white as the nutritional value is greatly increased. Do remember that while you are breastfeeding, your babies are getting a great deal of nutrition from your milk, and as long as they have six to eight wet diapers per day and normal bowels movements, the babies are getting adequate intake.
Jill L. of Missouri
I made all the baby food for my son, and now my infant daughter. It is possible to make your own baby cereal too. At wholesomebabyfood.momtastic.com, they offer instructions on making baby foods, including cereals and oatmeal. It is very simple. You basically just grind up the grain in a blender or food processor and mix it with water or breast milk to serve.
Candice in TX
I'm wondering why you're even feeding nine-month-old breastfed babies baby cereal. Baby cereals are not a necessity, but an invention of the modern food industry. If your wife is breastfeeding your triplets (wow, feeding one is demanding enough!), and they're eating a good variety of other complementary foods including meat, they likely don't "need" baby cereal. Their iron requirements should be satisfied by those sources alone (breast milk has low iron, but is nearly 100% used by the baby, whereas with formula or iron supplemented foods babies can only absorb 5-10% of the iron at best). I would suggest offering them a variety of low-sodium, high-quality foods like plain oatmeal, cream of rice, etc. that you can buy at the regular grocery store or health food store. Check with your physician if they are knowledgeable about the most recent research into human infant nutrition and breastfeeding, or contact your local La Leche League for additional help on infant nutrition.
The book Super Baby Food has great recipes for cereal and all kinds of other baby foods. I've used this method for two children, and I am feeding baby number three this was as well. My children are great eaters, love vegetables, and are almost never sick.
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