Infant rice cereal is a popular cereal for many babies. Rice cereal can be mixed with water, formula or breast milk to create a mixture as thin or thick as a baby requires. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants receive breast milk until their first birthday. Parents should be aware that rice cereal can have side effects in some babies. Speak with your child’s pediatrician if you have any questions or concerns when starting your baby on solid foods.
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Babies with severe reflux may require thickened feeds, often with the addition of rice cereal to infant formula. In these cases, your pediatrician will recommend how to mix the formula to achieve the right consistency. Dr. Alan Greene, with DrGreene.com explains that in some babies, adding rice cereal to baby bottles may lead to lung problems if the mixture comes back up from the stomach and goes into the lungs. Many young babies lack coordination in feeding and it is easy for a baby to eat too quickly and have some of the cereal mixture reflux back into the lungs.
Rice cereal can be very constipating for many babies, explains Dr. Bob Sears, renowned pediatrician with AskDrSears.com. A baby’s digestive tract is used to processing either formula or breast milk since birth. When rice cereal is started, your baby goes from a diet that is easily digested to one that causes problems with elimination. This leads to pain and difficulty passing stool. Some babies try to avoid having a bowel movement to avoid experiencing pain. Dr. Sears recommends discontinuing the rice cereal if this occurs and switching to foods such as pureed peaches, prunes and green vegetables. He goes on to explain that rice cereal isn’t even required at all in the diet of an infant.
Like any food or medicine, some babies are allergic to rice cereal. However, rice isn’t a food that carries a high risk of allergic reaction like some others, such as wheat and dairy. Individuals who live near a rice field are sometimes allergic due to specific rice pollen. Other babies may be allergic to an additive in the rice cereal, such as soy, dairy or corn starch. Symptoms of an allergy include diarrhea and hay fever symptoms such as sneezing and runny nose.
Many well meaning friends and family members offer parents advice regarding when to start a baby on rice cereal. Many myths related to the use of rice cereal circulate, for example, adding cereal to a bottle will help a baby sleep longer. This information is not true and not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics or the National Institute of Health. Giving rice cereal before a baby is developmentally ready can lead to many problems. If you feel that your baby isn’t getting enough breast milk or formula however, consult a lactation consultant or your pediatrician for recommendations and an evaluation of your baby.