AAP recommends not feeding anything to an infant below age 6 months old anything other than breastmilk or formula. Any solid or semi-solid food can result in choking or other long-term issues. Rice cereal is one such milk thickening agent not suitable for a 2-month-old. It can be a choking hazard since an infant’s motor skills aren’t developed to sit upright, have neck control, or swallow anything, including thickened milk. It can also cause arsenic poisoning, or they could have a food allergy. Rice cereal doesn’t help babies sleep better or reduce their reflux. Don’t give it to your infant unless recommended by a pediatrician as part of a treatment plan.
You must have heard of a typical old grandmother’s advice of feeding your baby added rice cereal in their bottle whenever they face trouble sleeping.
Or, if the baby has acid reflux, just add some to the bottle, and just like magic, their reflux will be resolved.
As tempting as this advice might sound to solve the troubles of your baby, it can be hazardous for the infant.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends not feeding your infant anything other than breast milk for the first 6 months.
So, why is it that some parents think rice cereal could be beneficial? Can it really help your infant sleep better or get rid of their reflux issues? Is it safe, or can it implicate their life with life-long issues?
Adding rice cereal to breastmilk
Rice cereal for babies comes in powdered form, which can add consistency to the milk, making it heavier to drink.
While it might seem it isn’t a big deal as it’s mixed with milk, you shouldn’t make your 2-month-old infant consume it.
There can be many reasons you might want to feed your infant rice milk, and it can be because they have trouble sleeping, have acid reflux, or get hungry pretty quickly.
But for any reason feeding them this thickened milk can threaten their life.
Some infants may be ready for solids sooner, but that too also after they turn 4 months old and not before that in any possible case.
A mother’s breast milk contains all the proper nutrition intake an infant needs to remain healthy and grow at the right pace.
Reasons to not give rice cereal to 2-month-old
1. No muscle control
Infants don’t gain muscle control before the age of 6 months old, and it’s only after they gradually learn to stay upright and gain control of muscles in their neck, which they need to swallow the semi-solid food; otherwise, they’ll choke.
2. Natural reflex
Waiting until they turn 6 months old is also essential because until then, they haven’t outgrown their natural reflex that all babies are born with that causes them to push their tongue against anything inserted into their mouths.
Babies grow out of it only after 4 months old.
3. Weight gain
It can lead to the issue of body weight gain in infants.
The breast milk or formula given to infants is calculated precisely to provide the maximum nutrition without increasing weight.
But when you add rice cereal, it can significantly increase those calories.
4. Choking hazard
As their neck muscles aren’t in their control yet, and they still have the natural reflex to push their tongue against anything inserted into their mouths, they can choke.
This powdered rice can prove to be a choking hazard as the thick consistency of the milk isn’t appropriate for them to swallow yet.
5. Arsenic danger
Another reason not to give it to a 2-month-old is the naturally occurring levels of inorganic arsenic in rice.
As rice is grown, the plant absorbs more inorganic arsenic from its environment than other crops.
Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that can enter the food supply through water, soil, or air.
This exposure to arsenic intake can be much more than an adult human because of bodyweight difference, leading to long-term health issues in the infant.
Does rice cereal help infant acid reflux?
You may have heard of this tip to get rid of your baby’s acid reflux issue by feeding them powdered rice mixed with breastmilk. But does it really help?
The idea behind doing so is to make the milk sit heavier in the infant’s stomach.
A review done in 2015 published in American Family Physician reported that adding rice cereal does help in reducing the amount observed in regurgitation but brings with it the issue of weight gain.
But it’s only to be done under the careful observation of doctors when they prescribe it as a treatment for gastroesophageal reflux disease treatment for the infant.
Even then, no doctor would suggest this as the first option to treat the reflux issue of an infant, and they would want the problem to be solved by other methods like trying to feed the infant smaller but frequent feeds to reduce the reflux episodes.
If adding a thickening agent is the only option left, adding powdered rice is no longer an option the doctor recommends to the parents.
There are other ways to make the milk thicker, like using oatmeal.
Using powdered rice without medical approval isn’t something you should do to feed a 2-month-old.
Does rice cereal help infants sleep?
Infants are harder to deal with when parents don’t know what’s causing them the trouble. They can be crying at odd hours, and you would be racking your brain to think of a reason behind it.
There is a struggle initially, and one of those includes infants not sleeping better or for longer.
Due to this fact, many parents become irritated and want a quick solution to make their infants sleep better. Adding powdered rice is one such old tale that somehow works like magic for infants.
But there’s no scientific backup to claim this works for the infant. Only patience and setting a good routine for your infant will help them get used to a sleeping pattern.
There could also be other medical issues you don’t know that could be causing trouble for them to sleep at night. So, checking in with your pediatrician might be helpful.
When to start rice cereal for infant
It should only be provided if prescribed by the doctor, and that too in the correct quantity as prescribed. It’s considered a semi-solid food that shouldn’t be fed to an infant of 2 months old.
Babies are ready for semi-solid food when they turn 6 months old, then gradually, you can introduce different purees or fruit juice to them.
Here are some things a baby should have before starting semi-solid and other baby foods:
- Good neck and head control and ability to sit up in a chair.
- Showing curiosity about foods when watching others eat or grabbing foods they want to try to eat.
- Not pushing semi-solid food out of the mouth due to tongue reflex, which goes away after 4th months old.
- When their weight increases to twice their birth age weight.
How much cereal do I put in a 2-month-old bottle?
You should never feed a 2-month-old infant powdered rice breastmilk in their bottle.
There are several reasons why this isn’t the right thing to do, like choking.
Consistency of the milk can become too thickened for the infant to swallow, resulting in choking.
It should never be given to an infant unless prescribed by the doctor. It should only be provided in a small quantity by mixing it with a spoonful of milk.
Feed the infant by holding them in an upright position and quite slowly. This is usually a two-person job.
Does rice cereal constipate babies?
It shouldn’t be given to a baby with a constipation issue as it aggravates the problem.
Because rice is binding, it absorbs water in the gut, making the stool hard to pass.
Does rice cereal keep my baby full longer?
It’s a grandmother’s tale to feed your baby rice cereal mixed in breastmilk if you want to keep them fuller for a long time. But science doesn’t back it up.
In fact, feeding it can prove hazardous to infants until they turn 6 months old.
Only after 6 months should parents start with semi-solids for the baby. If parents feel that their baby gets hungry faster, it’s because babies have smaller stomachs.
But they gradually increase their appetite per meal, and they can go longer between each feeding.
It’s necessary to feed infants every 2 to 3 hours. Breastmilk or recommended formula dosage is enough, and after 6 months, you can start with semi-solids.
You could have heard anywhere that feeding powdered rice milk to the baby can help with many things.
If your infant is crying a lot, it can help them sleep better. If they have reflux issues, it can help them calm down.
But these are not backed up by science. No research shows that rice cereal can help an infant in any way. But it can lead to choking and other long-term issues with the infant.
Feeding anything to an infant below 6 months other than breastmilk or formula isn’t recommended. You might be tempted to try it once, but it will only risk your infant’s life.
If you’re troubled by some issue, it’s better to take them to their pediatrician to find a solution that won’t put their life at risk.