Baby’s First Cereals
You can make your own baby cereal!
If you make it yourself, you know that it contains all the necessary fibre and carbohydrates that your baby needs and there are no additives.
Commercial baby cereal is usually fortified with iron, which often constipates a baby. Previously it was believed that a breastfed baby suffers from iron deficiency, as the iron levels in a mother’s breastmilk diminishes after the seventh month of breastfeeding. However the iron found in breastmilk is easily absorbed by the baby and after month seven more food is being introduced that provides your baby with additional iron. So rest assured that making your own baby cereal is healthy, as well as cheap & easy! If you are feeding your baby formula, giving your baby homemade whole foods ensures that your baby is getting unprocessed nutritious food.
The best cereal to start with is brown rice cereal. It is high in nutrients and fibre and is a neutral cereal. It is unlikely to cause allergies. Always introduce a food for 3 – 4 days before adding something new. This helps prevents allergies. In a following post I will go further into the proper scheduling of food introduction. However below I will show different cereals which can be made & mention the age at which they should be introduced.
To make your own Organic Brown Rice Cereal, you need a food processor with the S-blade and 1/2 C of Organic Brown Rice. I would suggest not buying your rice from the bulk section. If it is packaged you can be sure it is a bit more fresh and there is less likelihood of cross-contamination.
Grind the Brown Rice in the food processor for 2 to 5 minutes. This is a noisy process, so I would not recommend doing it during nap time! The food processor may get warm, but it should be okay. Keep grinding it until a soft powder forms. After 3 minutes you may notice that there is a fine powder but rice grains about the size of sesame seeds, if your baby is under 8 months old, continue grinding until the rice grains are half the size of sesame seeds (i.e. tiny!). Once your baby is over 8 months old, you can keep the rice grains at the sesame seed size or larger. Store your Brown Rice Cereal in an airtight container in the fridge. Feel free to take 20 minutes to grind up more than 1/2 a cup so that you have a lot on hand, just remember it is noisy and it may take longer to grind up the rice.
Cooking Time! To cook up your cereal you need a pot and 1/4 C of water for every 1 Tablespoon of Brown rice cereal. When you first begin feeding your baby, this may be all you need, but over time you can make more, just double or triple the above measurements. I would not recommend cooking up the cereal and freezing it. It does not freeze well & becomes kind of gelatinous. Besides, it is really easy and quick to cook up a fresh serving.
Start by bringing your 1/4 Cup of water to a boil and adding 1 Tablespoon of Brown Rice Cereal. Keep the burner on medium-high heat.
Whisk the cereal quickly, until it becomes porridge-like. This does not take long (1 – 2 minutes). If you have larger rice grains, check with a fork that they are soft and easily squished. Do not leave this on the stovetop to cook unattended, it will burn in no time! If the cereal is still sticky or does not seem cooked (i.e., you cannot squish the rice grains easily), add a little more water; 1 Tablespoon at a time.
I will admit, it doesn’t look great, but your baby will love it! If you are just starting to introduce cereal to your baby, you can mix it with breastmilk (or formula) so the taste is more familiar. Every time you serve it, you can add less and less milk. You can also mix this with applesauce, mashed bananas, mashed sweet potato, mashed avocado once you have introduced these foods to your baby.
There are other grains you can grind up for cereal and they are actually a lot easier. I use a coffee grinder for the ‘softer grains’ like oats, millet and quinoa.
Oats are a great second food to introduce. They do contain a little gluten, so it is best to introduce it once your baby is familiar with rice. I highly recommend buying Steel Cut Oats, also known as Irish Oats, not rolled oats. Rolled oats can be contaminated from the processing and spoil faster than Steel Cut Oats. Steel Cut Oats just need a quick blast in the coffee grinder, and after 8 months don’t need to be ground at all. Follow the same measurements: 1/4 Cup of boiling water for every 1 Tablespoon.
Organic Hulled Barley is another great whole grain for your baby. Barley is often the second grain introduced, as it contains a little gluten , like oats. I recommend buying Organic Hulled Barley, but if you cannot find it, pearl barley will suffice. Because Barley is tough, grind it in your food processor.
Millet is a cereal that is alkalizing, which means that it helps fight acidity and illness. This is easily ground in a coffee grinder. Introduce it after your baby is 9 months.
Organic Quinoa is very high in protein. It should be introduced after your baby is nine months. It is easily ground in a coffee grinder.
Once your baby is familiar with one or two different cereals, you can mix them up. Make a cereal from rice, millet and quinoa or oats and barley. Mixing up your baby’s diet helps them get used to trying new things often and reduce food boredom. Always follow the same formula 1/4 C of water to 1 Tbsp of cereal and add water 1 Tbsp at a time if the cereal is sticky or does not seem to be cooking well. You will quickly become familiar with how much water you need.
What else can be added? Seasonings and Vegetable Protein.
Once your baby is 8 months, it is time to start adding some seasonings to your baby’s palate. Try cinnamon, nutmeg, basil, thyme, oregano, curry powder. Stay away from salt, onion and garlic powder. Follow food introduction rules with seasonings as well, introducing them only to food that your baby has tried before. Mix the seasonings into the cereal as it is cooking. I think it is really important to add seasonings at a young age; I hope that this way my baby will be less of a picky eater later on!
Once your baby is 9 months it is a good time to introduce more vegetable protein in the diet. To do this grind up beans in your coffee grinder and add it to your cereal. I recommend lentils, split peas, adzuki beans, mung beans and chick peas. The water to cereal ratio should remain the same, but if you find it is too sticky, just add a little more water.
Have fun making your own cereal! I’d love to hear your comments on how easy or difficult you found my instructions. And let me know what else you would like to learn.