In the United States, many doctors will recommend you begin feeding rice cereal to you infant as young as 4 months old. These doctors tell you that rice cereal is a gentle and easy way to transition your baby from a liquid diet to a diet using more solid-type foods, plus it’s full of vitamins and minerals. I did some research and decided to skip the rice cereal all together. Read on to learn why rice cereal is not the best food to give to your baby.
Rice should never be added to a baby’s bottle. Many people are told by the older generation that this is a way to help babies learn to like the texture of denser foods. They also claim that it can help babies sleep longer because the rice sits on their stomach heavier than formula or breast milk alone. This research article published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website confirms that there is no link between feeding infants cereal before bed and their ability to sleep through the night. Rice cereal in the bottle can also be a choking hazard, especially when it is given to babies who have not lost their tongue thrust reflex. Babies drinking thickened milk might not know whether to swallow or spit it out because of its strange not-quite-solid yet not-quite-liquid consistency.
If you look on a box of rice cereal, you will see the first ingredient is processed white rice flour. They say that our food preferences as adults are derived from the first foods we were given as infants. Perhaps the introduction of rice cereal has much to do with our culture’s obsession with processed white breads and sugars. If you’re going to give your baby infant cereal, consider giving him whole grain baby cereal instead. This has all the added vitamins and minerals of rice cereal minus the over-processed rice.
What frightens me the most is the recent discovery of the dangerous levels of arsenic found in popular rice products, including baby rice cereals. Arsenic occurs naturally in soils and some rice fields contain more arsenic in their soils than others. Sometimes these levels are considered too high for human consumption according to the Food and Drug Administration, yet products with dangerously high levels have been sneaking their way on our grocery shelves. High doses of arsenic are linked to cancer, heart disease, and poor function of the brain. I’m not suggesting we eliminate rice from our diets, but if you must give you baby rice cereal, please do so sparingly.
Personally, I would just skip the rice cereal all together. Your baby doesn’t need it and can get the vitamins and minerals in other food sources such as whole grain cereals and pureed fruits, vegetables, and meats.