Full Bellies And Fatter Wallets

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Health experts agree that breastfeeding is usually best for both moms and babies. It's also the least expensive way to feed an infant and the most environmentally friendly. There's no manufacturing process to fuel, no transportation cost and no packaging. In a child's first year, breastfeeding saves $1,500 over most name-brand formulas. Even after factoring in the cost of a breast pump and a couple of visits to a lactation consultant if you need one, breastfeeding still usually comes out cheaper.

When breastfeeding isn't possible, the eco-conscious parent can choose from a growing variety of organic formulas -- those made from ingredients produced without pesticides or industrial fertilizers. You don't need to go with expensive brand names. Chain stores are increasingly offering their own versions of organic formula.

Safeway's O Organics brand costs $22 for a 25.7-ounce can of powdered formula, which makes about 31 six-ounce bottles, enough to feed most infants for a week. Wal-Mart's Parent's Choice line includes an organic infant formula with a suggested retail price of less than $20 for a same-size can. By comparison, a can of Similac organic formula costs about $31.

To save money, look for coupons, which are widely available for premium brands of organic formula. Pediatricians can be a good source for these, so be sure to ask at check-ups. Company Web sites frequently offer free samples and coupons in exchange for signing up on their marketing lists.

No matter which type of formula you buy, look into buying in bulk, directly from manufacturers or from a co-op if you have one in your neighborhood. This reduces your expenses as well as the amount of packaging wasted.

At six months, when your child begins eyeing your dinner plate with interest, solid food will create a new expense. Baby-food manufacturers are rolling out organic lines, but they can cost twice as much as the conventional food. That adds up quickly: At 60 cents a jar, three servings of pureed vegetables a day will come to $50 a month, money that might be better put toward the kid's college fund instead of smeared all over the floor.

There is another way, one that will save you money and worry about what exactly your darling is eating: Just skip the jars. Baby food is incredibly simple to make. "Go out and buy whole carrots, steam them and throw them in the blender," Trish Riley said.

"My children have never eaten jarred baby food in their lives," said Rachel Mosteller of Texas, mother of 3-year-old Ellie and 1-year-old Sam.

You'll spend pennies per serving, and you won't have to bother with recycling the jars.

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