In rare cases, constipation in babies may be caused by a lack of nerve or by structural problems in the lower large intestines. Most of them become constipated when foods are first added to their diet because the standard recommended starting foods-rice cereals, squash, bananas, and applause are all constipating.
Why do healthcare practitioners choose these starting foods when they know too well they will make most babies constipated?
Rice cereals are still considered the number one starting food for babies because of their binding effect on the bowel since it is part of the BRAT diet that is recommended, especially for babies who are prone to bad bouts of diarrhea.
No wonder then that a bowl of infant rice cereals may have a constipating effect on a baby food beginner.
Is too much rice cereal bad for your baby?
Here is some advice for parents who are wondering if, why, and when to consider feeding rice cereals to their young ones.
- Follow the six months rule. Don’t feed your baby rice cereal or any other solid foods before they attain six months of age. Babies should be given formula, exclusively breastfed, or a combination of both breast milk and formula for the first six months of life. Breast milk and formula milk are much more nutritious for babies at this early stage than solid food alternatives.
- Watch your baby’s intake. The greatest baby brain development occurs in the first year of life and a baby’s diet has a greater impact on that development. When you feed your baby rice cereals, follow the American Academy of Pediatrics advice of not feeding rice cereals every day and don’t make it the only food in the meal.
- Note the benefits of rice cereal. The reason why rice cereal is still popular is that It doesn’t trigger an allergic reaction as the gluten in the wheat can and has been well-tolerated by babies who are transitioning from breast milk or formula to solid foods and it is easy to digest. It is still good food you can add to your baby’s diet in appropriate quantities.
- Pick your rice cereal brand wisely. Levels of inorganic arsenic can vary widely from brand to brand in both baby food and adult food. Check out arsenic levels in different baby cereal brands.
- Expand your baby’s diet. Other than just rice cereal, add other grain cereal like barley, quinoa, and oats to your baby’s diet. Settle for single-grain cereals rather than multigrain so you can monitor how your baby reacts to various grains and avoid any that seems to arouse any health problems. When it’s time to add fruits and vegetables to the baby’s diet, follow the same principle and introduce one new food at a time.
- Don’t overlook other sources of arsenic. Groundwater and other sources are breeding grounds for arsenic besides rice cereals. Have your well checked periodically for arsenic and other heavy metals such as lead which can also be harmful to babies.
- Choose iron-fortified cereals. These iron-fortified cereals help ensure your baby gets the nutrients she needs for optimum brain development.
Signs of rice cereal constipation
- You will notice your baby throwing up after eating rice cereal more often.
- Straining more than normal to pass stool.
- The baby’s stool will be formed like small hard pebbles, sometimes they will be hard and large and other times they will be soft and mushy.
- Liquid stool-like diarrhea may be passing around solid stool that stays inside.
- The baby may experience painful cramps.
- The baby may be irritable and seems to be having abdominal pain shortly after feeding.
- Rice cereal swells the stomach with gas after consumption.
Quick-relief for constipation in babies
- Drop the rice cereal for oat or barley cereals. Rice cereals are a source of serious constipation in babies.
- If your munchkin is not eating jar baby foods yet, you may give a few ounces of fruit juices from apples, prunes, and cherry each day and reduce the amount slowly as the stool starts to loosen up.
- If the baby is old enough to eat strained foods, you may offer finger foods in the form of fruits and vegetables.
- Do not give the baby enemas, laxatives, or suppositories unless instructed by the doctor.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is it safe to put rice cereal in a baby’s bottle?
Contrary to recent studies, Initially, it was thought that adding rice cereal to a baby’s bottle at night would help them sleep longer without waking up to feed during the night.
Babies usually don’t sleep more than 5 hrs at a time without waking up. They will instinctively wake up to feed whether they are hungry or not. So not only does adding rice cereal to a baby’s bottle not keep them asleep, but it can also raise the risk of checking.
Adding rice cereal to the baby bottle makes it thicker, and babies who get used to drinking thick milk like the cereals might later have difficulties telling solid foods apart from liquid foods. In addition, it can make the introduction of solid foods difficult.
What is the best cereal food to start with?
Experts recommend any food that can be easily digested, like oats which are wheat-free and will not irritate your little one’s stomach in case she is allergic or gluten sensitive, barley and other single grain varieties even though rice cereal is fortified with iron and is easy to digest.
Not all babies are affected with rice cereals in a constipated manner, and many parents swear by them as an easy to serve first food that can be mixed with breast milk or used to make formula taste better.
However, it would certainly be useful for parents to be aware of the fact that constipation is a possible side effect of a diet of baby rice cereals without a doubt.
Instead of rice cereal, the AAP now recommends that you introduce oatmeal to your baby instead.