Feeding your baby rice cereal provides an opportunity for you to introduce a gluten-free and allergy-free solid to your infant's diet. However, introducing this food too early or adding it directly to the baby's bottle might cause problems in your child's development.
The potential that baby cereal has to make your baby gain weight might sway you toward or against adding cereal to his diet, based on your child's weight. Dr. Alan Greene, a pediatrician at Stanford University, says white rice cereal can predispose children to obesity. The American Academy of Pediatrics says babies can naturally regulate the amount of formula they need based on volume but that they can't do the same based on calories. The addition of cereal to a baby's bottle derails this mechanism and teaches him to overeat. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend adding baby cereal directly to a baby's bottle because it can lead to excessive weight gain.
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against introducing cereal to a baby's diet before she is developmentally ready due to the potential to increasing the risk of the baby developing food allergies. Although rice cereal is gluten-free, introducing this food too early, followed by introducing other foods immediately after, could result in the baby developing an allergy.
Digestive and Respiratory Problems
Infant cereal added directly to a baby's bottle may cause certain digestive and respiratory problems. Heidi Murkoff, author of the "What to Expect" book series, says babies can develop pulmonary difficulties from inhaling small pieces of cereal into their lungs. However, pediatricians may recommend adding cereal with baby formula to help with reflux.
When caregivers first introduce cereal to their baby's diet, they might be tempted to cut a hole in the bottle nipple to help the cereal pass through. However, cereal in a bottle can pose a choking hazard for infants. If your pediatrician recommends that you feed your infant cereal with her formula, mix cereal and formula together in a bowl or container and have her eat it with a spoon to avoid the possibility of choking.
- HealthyChildren.org: Cereal in a Bottle: Solid Food Shortcuts to Avoid
- ABC News: Rice Cereal Controversy: Does It Make Kids Fat?
- What to Expect: Too Soon for Solids?
- Baby Center: Will My Baby Sleep Better If I Add Cereal to His Bottle at Night?
- Dr. Greene.com: Baby Bottles and Cereal
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER) and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) in Infants
- Advances in Pediatrics: Opportunities for the Primary Prevention of Obesity During Infancy
- Minnesota Department of Health: Infant Cereal
- KidsHealth: Feeding Your 4- to 7-Month Old