Introducing solid foods to your baby is an exciting time as you watch him explore new tastes and textures. Many parents choose rice cereal as their baby's first solid food because of its low allergenic properties. Some doctors suggest adding rice cereal to a baby's bottle for weight-gaining purposes, but this is done only under certain conditions. Before you introduce rice cereal into your baby's diet, you'll want to understand the nutritional effects of this first food.
Rice Cereal Basics
Rice cereal consists of 75 percent carbohydrates and just 7 percent protein, according to AskDrSears.com. This cereal is fortified with minerals, including calcium, along with B vitamins and iron. It's recommended to combine a small amount of rice cereal with breast milk or formula to slowly introduce your baby to solids. When introduced this way, rice cereal does not cause unnecessary or excessive weight gain. Instead, it transitions your baby to solid foods in a gradual way, giving your little one the familiar taste of breast milk or formula with some added texture and nutrition.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends introducing solid foods, such as rice cereal, between four and six months of age. However, you should consider your baby's readiness when deciding when to offer rice cereal. According to AskDrSears.com, babies show several signs of readiness to start solids, including being able to sit up with support, showing interest in your food and mimicking your eating behaviors. Considering both age and signs of readiness ensures that the introduction of rice cereal is successful.
Strategies to Avoid
While you always want a good night's sleep, your baby's nighttime wakings likely cannot be stopped with the addition of rice cereal. Some parents mistakenly believe that by adding rice cereal to their baby's bottle, it will fill them up and extend their sleep stretches. However, formula and breast milk have more nutritional value than rice cereal and, thus, should not be watered down with rice cereal in the hopes of longer sleep stretches. Moreover, little evidence exists that this strategy encourages better sleep. In normal, healthy babies, rice cereal in the bottle fails to teach the baby how to eat, and it puts her at risk of becoming overweight, says KidsHealth.org.
In some instances, your pediatrician might encourage you to add rice cereal to bottles specifically to help your baby gain weight. Babies who are diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux, characterized by frequent vomiting beyond your average spit-up, might struggle to gain weight. In these cases, rice cereal in the bottle can be a helpful supplement to keep the baby's weight gain on track.