As a parent of an infant, you know all about sleepless nights. You might even daydream about your pre-baby days, when you used to get a full eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. In your desperation to get a few hours of shut-eye, you might consider putting cereal in the bottle, having heard from other parents that it will help your baby sleep better. But this old wives' tale might cause more harm than good.
Adding cereal to your baby's bottle thickens the formula. Infants less than 5 months old only have the reflex to suck and swallow liquids. When solid foods are placed in your infants mouth, as a reflex, he will push it out with his tongue. The thickened formula might confuse your infant, and because it is thinner than a solid, but not thin like his regular formula, he can choke on it. In addition, you will also need to make the hole of the nipple bigger when you thicken the formula with cereal, which can cause your infant to take in too much formula, also leading to choking.
Displacing Important Nutrients
During the first four months of your infant's life, breast milk or formula provides her with all the nutrients she needs for normal growth and development, and should be her only source of nutrition. The breast milk and formula also keep her fluids and electrolytes balanced. Adding cereal to the bottle might hinder her ability to get the nutrients she needs to grow properly and maintain fluid and electrolyte balance by causing her to fill up too quickly, preventing her from taking in enough formula.
Eating at Regular Intervals
Infants have a small stomach that can only hold a small amount of formula at a time. This is why they need to eat so often, even during the night. The Minnesota Department of Health says infants should go no more than 4 to 6 hours without a feeding. Adding cereal to the bottle might delay feedings, which can also prevent him from getting all the calories, protein, vitamins and minerals he needs for normal growth.
Around 6 months of age, your infant will be able to hold her head up without support, close her lips and take food from a spoon and transfer food from the front of her mouth to the back of the mouth with her tongue. These are important skills your infant needs for feeding skills and development. Adding cereal to the bottle might delay this important developmental milestone by preventing her from experiencing the act of eating cereal by spoon.
- Alaska WIC: Bottle Feeding FAQs
- Minnesota Department of Health: Infant Cereal Frequently Asked Questions
- University of Georgia and Fort Valley State University; "Feeding Infants: A Guide for Use in the Child Care Food Program"; December 1993
- Lucille Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford: Infant Feeding Guide
- Cincinatti Children's; "Avoid Giving Infants Water"; July 2000