It is interesting that we live in a society that has this thing we call baby food, which is really just food that has been pureed, processed, put into tiny jars, and marked up several hundred or even a thousand percent in price. The global baby food market was worth $25 billion in 2008 and is expected to be worth $37.6 billion by 2014 with 37 percent of that money spent in North America.
When you look at the ingredients of baby food, the cost is truly astronomical. A box of organic baby oatmeal costs 40 cents per ounce, or $6.40 per pound, but organic rolled oats cost about $1.50 per pound, which means you are paying more than four times as much for the baby food label and a little extra grinding. A jar of banana baby food costs 30 cents an ounce, but it is not hard to find bananas that cost only slightly more than that per pound, meaning that banana baby foods cost almost ten times as much as fresh bananas, which have more fiber and nutrition because they have not been processed.
Baby food, especially that made for older babies, may also contain added water and fillers, meaning that it has less nutrition than an equal amount of the same food eaten fresh. Baby food is essentially a convenience food, but many parents are led to believe there is something special about it.
Marketers vs. Health and Economy
In the 1950s marketers convinced mothers that they should start giving babies solid foods at a very young age, usually by two weeks of age, but sometimes as young as only a few days old. Newly created baby cereals and baby foods were pureed to avoid a choking hazard. In fact, baby bottles were developed for pureed food so that babies could suck down their carrots or applesauce.
Eventually medical science completely turned around the recommendation for starting solids so early, realizing that babies need only breast milk for the first six months of life. Around the middle of the first year, when babies are starting to show an interest in solid foods and are able to sit up on their own, you can simply offer them a tiny bit of mashed food, such as part of a banana or sweet potato. The first few times you offer it, you are simply gauging the baby's interest and ability to actually move food around the mouth and swallow it.
Introducing only one food per week is recommended so that if a food causes an allergic reaction, it can be identified. Don't give the baby too much that first time — a tablespoon is plenty — because too much could cause a digestive upset. You don't need a fancy baby food puree machine or even a blender or food processor.
How To Make Your Own "Baby Food"
A fork can be used to mash up many cooked foods, including butternut or acorn squash, carrots, and white potato, as well as the banana and sweet potato already mentioned. Regular applesauce purchased or made for the rest of the family can also be fed to babies, as well as regular cooked oatmeal. However, because grains are more likely to cause an allergic reaction and are harder to digest, it is better to add them to the diet after you have already introduced a few fruits and vegetables.
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For most of the baby's first year, milk provides the majority of the necessary nutrients, and as the baby gets older, solid foods will gradually replace most of the milk. By the time our babies were a year old, they were eating almost everything the rest of the family was eating, except for small, hard foods that could be a choking hazard, such as nuts and raw carrots.
Simplicity Makes Baby Food Easier and Less Expensive
It is easy to incorporate baby's diet into the family meals. When introducing banana, slice off about an inch of it, mash it with a fork, and offer it to your baby. You can eat the rest of the banana. When you want to introduce sweet potato to your baby, bake sweet potatoes for the family's dinner one night. Cut off a small piece of sweet potato and mash it with a fork for the baby when you're eating. Store the rest of the sweet potato in the refrigerator for three or four days in a covered dish. For the baby's next offering of sweet potato, just cut off a small piece again, mash it and offer it to your baby.
You can do the same thing for white baked potatoes, cooked carrots, and winter squash. There is no need for you to mash up several bananas or potatoes or squash and put them in the freezer in individual servings. Simply feed fresh food to your baby just as you feed the rest of your family.
Bottled Baby Food: Not Ecofriendly
Baby food is not ecofriendly. Because babies can eat foods that have been cooked for the rest of the family, almost every container of baby food represents wasted energy and resources except those used when traveling, which would represent a tiny percentage of current production.
Even when traveling it is possible to order foods that could be fed to your baby, such a baked potato or sweet potato that you mash with your fork before feeding just as you would if you were home. Most baby food today is packaged in non-recyclable containers, rather than the glass jars of yesteryear.
Save Money by Eliminating Store-Bought Bottled Baby Food
Savings: If you feed your baby two 70-cent containers of baby food every day the first month after starting solids, it will add up to about $40 for the month. As the baby eats more, the cost will continue to go up every month.
If the baby is eating seven containers of the baby foods for older babies, with an average cost of 85 cents per container, the monthly cost will be $178.50. This cost can be eliminated almost completely if you simply avoid buying baby food.
©2012 by Deborah Niemann-Boehle. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
New Society Publishers. www.newsociety.com
This article was adapted with permission from Chapter 3 of the book:
Ecothrifty: Cheaper, Greener Choices for a Happier, Healthier Life
by Deborah Niemann.
A must-read for anyone who has ever wanted to live a greener life but thought that it would be too expensive, time-consuming, or difficult, this handy, complete guide will show you how small changes can have a huge environmental impact and save you thousands of dollars, all while improving your quality of life.
About the Author
Deborah Niemann is a homesteader, writer and self-sufficiency expert who presents extensively on skills for living a more self-reliant life. She has raised livestock for over 10 years and is the administrator of a popular online forum and social network focused on Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats. She is the author of Homegrown and Handmade: A Practical Guide to More Self-Reliant Living, and Ecothrifty: Cheaper, Greener Choices for a Happier, Healthier Life. Deborah and her family produce all of their own meat, eggs and dairy products, while an organic garden and orchard provide fruit and vegetables.