Watching your new baby grow, you will excitedly await each new milestone. As he gets closer to his half birthday, you might begin to wonder if he is ready for more than just breast milk or formula for nutrition. Feeding your baby solids is a big step in his development, and knowing when he is ready for rice cereal and how to proceed safely is of utmost importance.
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Signs of Readiness
Starting your baby on solids, even cereal, can be dangerous and unhealthy if he is not ready. According to HealthyChildren.org and the American Academy of Pediatrics' book “Nutrition: What Every Parent Needs to Know,” each child is different, but before beginning rice cereal, he should be at least four to six months old and have doubled his birth weight to at least 13 pounds. He should also have good head control while sitting up in a high chair and open his mouth as he sees food coming toward him. In addition, he should be able to swallow some of the rice cereal that gets into his mouth, and move his tongue back and forth.
Introducing Rice Cereal
If your child shows signs that he is ready to try solids, Parenting.com recommends you start with iron-fortified infant rice cereal since it is easily digested and rarely triggers an allergic reaction. Wait until your baby is hungry, but not overly so. Dilute the cereal at a ratio of one teaspoon of cereal to four or five teaspoons of water, breast milk or formula, then scoop a small amount onto a spoon and put it between your baby’s lips. If he refuses it, try again in a few days. According to KidsHealth.org, your baby might take several tries at tasting new food before he starts to enjoy it.
Learning About Food
If your baby takes to the rice cereal, he might eat a bit and push it back out with his tongue, which is normal, or he may swallow a small amount. Either way is fine as he is discovering what a non-liquid food feels like in his mouth and throat. It’s important to note that the AAP recommends your baby should continue to receive most of his daily nutrition from breast milk or formula until his first birthday, and that you should wait 2 to 3 days before introducing his next solid food to allow you to watch for any allergic reactions such as vomiting, rash or diarrhea. If any of these occur, stop feeding your baby the new food and talk to your pediatrician about the issue.
Safe Feeding Practices
Even infants who show signs of readiness for starting rice cereal need to be closely monitored while eating it. HealthyChildren.org says that unless your infant has reflux and it has been recommended by your pediatrician, never put the cereal in your baby’s bottle since it might cause him to choke. Also, be sure to start with diluted cereal and gradually thicken it as your baby gets better at swallowing. Plus, don’t overfeed; start with a single teaspoon of cereal and gradually add more until he pushes the spoon away to indicate fullness.