Rice cereal is a popular “starting solids” healthy food that parents give to their little ones. Giving it too early (before 6 months), giving it too much, or feeding it with a bottle may come with some severe consequences, such as stomach gas.
Your little one has turned 6 months, and now the pediatrician has given you a go-ahead to start introducing solid food into his diet.
Your mother tells you to start with rice cereal. Your grandma to you, rice cereal has been the first solid food of all of you. But recently, you read somewhere that rice cereal is likely to cause gas.
So you wonder whether you should start with it or not? Hang in there! I’ll explain everything you need to know about rice cereal to help you make an informed decision.
What is rice cereal?
Rice Cereal, a traditional first solid food of an average American baby. It’s a commercially made product that is packed with numerous nutrients.
Rice cereal is first cooked in a factory and then dehydrated to turn it into a powdered-like form. Since it has already been cooked, it doesn’t need to be re-cooked at home.
You can simply mix it with water, formula, or breast milk. Just stir it, and voila, your rice cereal is ready.
Rice cereal contains rice flour, soy oil, tricalcium phosphate ( or any other calcium), iron, and multiple vitamins (depending on the brand). There are several other reasons why it has been the top choice for babies starting solid food for decades. Here are some of them.
Benefits of rice cereal
Easy to prepare
Rice cereal is pre-cooked, which makes it a convenient choice for parents. All you have to do is add water or your breast milk (make sure to read the instructions on the pack to know the exact quantity) to the product, mix it well, and serve it to your munchkin.
Packed with nutrients
Single grain cereals or rice cereals are an excellent first solid food for babies because they are heavily enriched with Vitamin B and iron. And that is why these are better than plain rice flour, made from white rice.
Easy to digest
Rice cereals are made for the babies’ delicate digestive system. But at first, it should be mixed thin until you find out if your baby is comfortable with this new food or not. And be sure to read and follow every brand’s mixing instructions carefully.
Less likely to cause allergies
One of the most amazing benefits of rice cereal is that it doesn’t trigger any allergic reaction, unlike the gluten in the wheat can.
Rice cereal’s potential reactions
Besides being nutritionally beneficial, rice cereal has often caused severe problems for babies. Gas is the most common adverse reaction of it. Other issues include bloating, diarrhea, rash around the baby’s mouth, vomiting, or wheezing.
According to Dr. Ruth Lawrence, professor of the University of Rochester Medical Center, rice cereal also contains arsenic, as it grows in water.
And researches show that even a small amount of arsenic can cause cardiovascular, immune, and other diseases in both infants and adults. Keeping this in mind, here’s some advice for parents who are considering feeding rice cereal to their little ones.
Tips for introducing rice cereal to your infant’s diet
Give it only after 6 months
Many parents make the mistake of introducing solid food to babies in just 4 months of age.
But feeding any kind of food, other than breast milk or formula, isn’t recommended by doctors because the intestines of a baby are not mature enough to digest any solid food.
Hence, babies below 6 months should exclusively be breastfed or given formula. Don’t worry; breast milk and even formula are much more nutritious than any other alternative food.
Don’t bottle feed the rice cereal
Adding rice cereal to a baby’s feeding bottle is common practice. Exhausted parents often do this to fill their little ones’ tummy; I hope it will help them get more sleep. But American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) recommends against this practice. The rice cereal in a bottle can cause excessive weight gain, choking hazards, and change in stool consistency, leading to constipation.
Babies have very delicate stomachs, and to start your little one off right, give him only one teaspoon of rice cereal in a day.
Make the mixture thin and runny in the beginning and once your baby gets comfortable with this new food, gradually increase the product and make the mixture a bit thicker.
Other things to keep in mind before introducing rice cereal to your baby
Carefully choose the brand of rice cereal
Recently the FDA proposed that there should not be more than 100 parts per billion of arsenic in rice cereal to be safe.Check price on Amazon
And these levels of inorganic arsenic vary widely across different brands. Therefore, it is better to check the status of arsenic in other brands before you make a purchase.
Expand your baby’s diet
The first year of your baby’s life is highly crucial as most of the brain development occurs at this time. And a good diet will only nourish and have a positive impact on the development.
That’s why don’t just rely on rice cereal but also introduce other grain cereal such as oats, barley, etc. But don’t choose multigrain cereals but stick to single grain only.
It will allow you to know how your baby reacts to different grains and stop any in case it causes any problem.
Only choose iron fortified cereals
Always look for cereal that has maximum amounts of nutrients. It will help you give him all the nutrients he needs for optimum brain development.
Healthy alternatives to rice cereal
Rice cereal is indeed fortified with iron, but the arsenic in it can cause serious issues. Nevertheless, it is safe to serve rice cereal a few days a week but avoid giving it every day.
Here are some of the iron-rich food options you can try to fulfill their needs for minerals and other vitamins:
- Baby oats (or other cereals mixed with quinoa or barley)
- Soft fruits (ie. avocado, oranges, etc.)
- Vegetables (ie. saute leafy greens like kale in oil and puree them, or maybe pureed sweet potatoes)
- Beans and legumes (ie. cook and puree lentils with fruits or vegetables, also consider incorporating quinoa)
Since every child is different, so you never know whether rice cereal will work for your baby or not. My daughter loved it whereas one of my friends had a terrible experience.
As soon as her daughter turned 6 months, she started giving her rice cereal. Her daughter liked the taste and also slept well. But few days in, she became cranky and didn’t poop as many times as she used to.
When my friend consulted the pediatrician, he told her that rice cereal is making her baby constipated and gassy, so she should quickly stop giving it to her little one. After that, she gave her daughter oats cereal, and so far, she has had no complaints.
However, if you still prefer giving rice cereal, be sure that you follow all the guidelines correctly for when to use it and how to use it.