Weaning your baby from formula or breast milk and adding solid foods like rice cereal into their diet is an exciting—and sometimes nervewrecking—time for parents.
While we are happy to watch them experience new tastes and textures as well as offer them something other than a liquid diet, we often become stressed trying to figure out what is safe for our baby, how old they have to be to eat certain foods and how much are they allowed to have.
Let’s face it. Children would be so much easier if they came with instruction manuals, but unfortunately, they do not and it is up to us as parents to make decisions for the health and safety of our children. When it comes to starting your baby on solids, you should always discuss it with your child’s physician before making that decision on your own.
There are certain regulations set in place about when babies can start certain foods because of their developing bodies. As a newborn, our child’s digestive systems are not fully developed yet, so there are certain foods they cannot have until they are older to ensure it will not cause any stomach upset. And when it comes to jarred commercial baby food, there are certain stages for parents to follow. Stage 1 foods are more bland and more pureed, making it easy for baby to consume and easy enough on their small, developing bellies.
Can I Give My Baby Rice Cereal? Answer: Yes, From 4-6 Months
Before your child starts on jarred baby foods, your pediatrician may recommend giving your baby cereal. While there are plenty of different types of cereal available—wheat, barley, oatmeal—your pediatrician will probably suggest your baby first start on rice cereal. Rice cereal is the easiest for your child’s digestive system to break down, which is why it is often recommended first.
Note: If your child is prone to constipation, your pediatrician may recommend starting on another type of cereal, as rice cereal may bind your child.
Most babies can start rice cereal between four and six months of age. Before your child can start cereal, they must show that they are ready to start taking solid foods. In order to start solids, your child must be able to sit up with support. This includes sitting in a high chair or Bumbo seat, something that will keep them in the upright position when it is time to eat. Your child should also be able to take in food without spitting it right back up. (Note that if your child does not like a new food, they may spit it out. This is normal.)
Solid Foods and Your Baby
Starting solids, such as rice cereal, may keep your baby fuller for longer periods of time. If your child was taking a bottle every three hours, you may notice that after starting cereal, they may take a bottle every five hours instead. This is because the thicker consistency in cereal takes longer to digest than formula or breast milk.
It is also important to know that the way our children take cereal now has changed over the years. Not too long ago, cereal was added to a child’s bottle and fed to them with a special bottle that had a nipple with a thicker opening. Now, cereal is fed using a bowl and a spoon.
Follow the Instructions
It is especially important to read the directions on your cereal box to ensure you are mixing it correctly. Instead of water, it is perfectly fine to mix cereal with breast milk or formula. But always make sure you are using the right amount of water/formula/breast milk and the right amount of cereal.
Keep Up With Breast Milk
It is also important to remember that just because your child has started cereal and/or other solid foods does not mean they do not need breast milk or formula. No matter what other foods your child takes, breast milk and formula should remain their main source of nutrition until after your child’s first birthday.
Remember, most babies are introduced to rice cereal before other solid foods. Rice cereal is safe on your child’s digestive system and easy to digest. Always check the label to ensure you are mixing it correctly, and make sure to feed cereal to your child according to the recommendations on the label.
As always, if you have any questions about rice cereal, when to start it or how to feed it, it is best to consult your child’s pediatrician. He or she will be able to discuss your concerns and answer your questions in more thorough detail.