“When are you going to give that baby some rice cereal?”
“He’s starving, give that baby some cereal!”
“She wouldn’t wake up so much if you’d just give her some cereal in her bottle.”
“He’s so skinny! Have you thought about giving him cereal?”
When you’re a parent, the pressure is on. From day one, everyone and their sister has an opinion on your choices, not the least of which is when to introduce solid foods, specifically infant cereals. What is the right time, if ever? Should it go in a bottle? How should it be prepared? What are the alternatives? There seems to be a lot of different information out there. Don’t worry! We’re here to break it down for you!
Here at Milky Mommas, we’re not about to make claims like the ones above without scholarly and expert sources for each and every point. Below, you’ll find each point sourced, explained, and linked, in case you want to do your own research.
1.Rice is a leading source of inorganic arsenic. Long term exposure to arsenic is associated with higher rates of skin, bladder, and lung cancers, as well as heart disease (fda.gov).
“Inorganic arsenic (iAs) is a well-characterized carcinogen, and recent epidemiologic studies have linked chronic exposures to non-cancer health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, skin lesions and respiratory disorders. Greater vulnerability has been demonstrated with early life exposure for health effects including lung and bladder cancer, immunotoxicity and neurodevelopment.”
2.Grains are difficult for humans to digest, making rice and other infant cereals not an ideal first food.
“In the present review, we describe how the daily consumption of wheat products and other related cereal grains could contribute to the manifestation of chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases.”
3.Studies show that introduction of infant cereals has no notable influence on sleep duration or quality of infant sleep.
“There was no statistically significant trend or a consistent tendency of one group to have a higher proportion of sleepers than the other. Therefore, feeding infants rice cereal in the bottle before bedtime does not appear to make much difference in their sleeping through the night.”
4.Serving babies rice cereal in a bottle is a choking hazard.
“Offering cereal in a bottle (or even on a spoon) before babies are developmentally ready can increase the likelihood of gagging and/or inhaling the thickened mixture into their lungs. Unless there’s a medical reason for giving it early, it’s not worth jumping the gun.”
5.Other sources of iron such as iron-rich foods are more readily absorbed and overall healthier for babies.
“We conclude that routine iron supplementation of breast-fed infants may benefit those with low Hb but may present risks for those with normal Hb.”
” Results of these studies, although requiring further verification, suggest that increased meat intake by breastfed infants >6 mo old would adequately support both iron and zinc requirements.”
6.Introducing cereal to increase weight gain is simply a bandage, not a solution. Breast milk is more calorie and nutrient dense than infant cereals, which are primarily starch (sugar), and fortified with vitamins, which are also more readily available in breast milk.
Chart of popular baby foods (pureed and otherwise) compared to calorie and fat content of human milk: https://kellymom.com/nutrition/starting-solids/babyfoodcalories/
On evaluating infant weight gain and how to address potential issues:
7.Cereals are often pushed at 4 months, but introducing foods including cereals before babies reach 6 months can cause problems such as gas and constipation, as well as increasing risk for gastrointestinal infection.
Following are just a few of the organizations that recommend that all babies be exclusively breastfed (no cereal, juice or any other foods) for the first 6 months of life (notthe first 4-6 months):
World Health Organization
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Academy of Family Physicians
Australian National Health and Medical Research Council
“Infants who are exclusively breastfed for six months experience less morbidity from gastrointestinal infection than those who are mixed breastfed as of three or four months, and no deficits have been demonstrated in growth among infants from either developing or developed countries who are exclusively breastfed for six months or longer. Moreover, the mothers of such infants have more prolonged lactational amenorrhea.”
“Taken together with our previous findings, these results indicate that the advantages of exclusive breastfeeding during this interval appear to outweigh any potential disadvantages in this setting.”
8.Though some babies with medical conditions may benefit from thickened bottle feedings, prescribed milk thickeners are typically more appropriate.
“Certain diet textures are often prescribed to help infants and children with special needs eat more safely and easily. Children with dysphagia or gastroesophageal reflux, for example, may need their food to be thicker in order to swallow safely or reduce reflux.
In response to concerns over arsenic in rice, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends parents of children with these conditions use oatmeal instead of rice cereal.”
9.Babies who are introduced to “real” foods rather than processed
infant cereals are more likely to develop a diverse palate
and are at a reduced risk for choking.
“Weaning style impacts on food preferences and health in early childhood. Our results suggest that infants weaned through the baby-led approach learn to regulate their food intake in a manner, which leads to a lower BMI and a preference for healthy foods like carbohydrates. This has implications for combating the well-documented rise of obesity in contemporary societies.”
“The study contributes to the insight that exposure to food texture to learn how to handle texture is important for infants and showed that exposing children to a higher amount of larger pieces improves their chewing capability”
More on Baby-led Weaning – https://www.mamanatural.com/baby-led-weaning/