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Ask any mother what her baby’s first food was and almost all will say rice cereal. For the last 50 years, pediatricians have been recommending white rice cereal as baby’s first food.
In fact, many well meaning parents (and sadly some doctors) suggest putting rice cereal in a baby’s bottle to help them sleep through the night or spit up less. (FYI: Rice cereal has been shown to not help them sleep through the night, it also doesn’t help with spitting up) This recommendation is often well before a baby should even be introduced to solids!
Unfortunately, rice cereal is hardly the ideal food to feed your baby ever, let alone as a first food.
Reasons To Not Feed Your Baby Rice Cereal
Rice Cereal Has No Nutritional Value
White rice cereal is really just ground up processed rice. It’s 94% starch. There is nothing good in it, which is why companies insert in additives to give it the extra nutrients.
Rice Cereal Gets Converted to Sugars
Processed refined grains (which is what white rice is) gets converted by the body into sugars. Therefore when you feed your baby white rice cereal, you are essentially feeding him sugar. Do you really want your baby’s first food to be sugar? I don’t think so.
Increased Risk for Ttype 1 Diabetes
Research has shown that introducing cereal to babies before four months increased the risk of developing diabetes autoimmunity. For babies who didn’t get cereal until after six months, there was still an increases in the likeliness of developing diabetes autoimmunity.
Obesity Risk Increase
Feeding a baby rice cereal increases insulin which promotes weight gain and actually weakens the body’s ability to lose fat.
High in Arsenic
White rice cereal (actually rice in general) contains arsenic. While you may or may not decided to avoid rice as an adult, babies clearly do not need to be exposed to arsenic at such a daily level. Many foods do contain some amount of arsenic (it’s a sad world we live in) but rice is pretty high on the list.
Babies Do Not Have the Enzyme Needed For Grains
I also have one more concern with white rice cereal (or any grain) being fed to a baby and it’s based on their enzyme development.
When babies are born, their enzymes that are needed to properly digest certain foods are not fully developed.
It’s a really interesting study but basically, a certain enzymes develop at certain stages. Enzymes for digesting breastmilk are already in place at birth, enzymes needed for produce and protein follow, and the enzyme needed to properly digest grains comes last.
The enzyme needed for grains doesn’t fully develop until around 1 years old!! (actually it usually coincides with when the baby gets there one year molars, which by the way introducing solids and how it relates to teeth is a very interesting study as well!)
So on top of the above reasons, I’d avoid feeding rice cereal (or any grains) to my baby because they don’t have the enzymes needed to properly digest it. For all the enzyme info, check out this great post on introducing your baby to solids based on enzyme development!
What to Feed Your Baby Instead of Rice Cereal
I am assuming that since you are reading this blog that you try to eat healthy. You can give you baby the advantage of starting a healthy life by skipping the rice cereal and instead offering nutrient rich foods. (I’ve found that it can help kids be healthy eaters later on!)
You can get a more detailed list of what to feed your baby in my baby food schedule post but starting with produce, egg yolk, and bone broth are all great first foods.
Wouldn’t you love to turn back the clock so that you never even knew what junk tasted like? It would make eating healthy so much easier! Why not give your baby that advantage. Avoid feeding your baby white rice cereal and other white/refined grain products.
This post is a part of the Starting Solids series. The Starting Solids series is a five post series on what to feed your baby when you start solids and when to start that process. Be sure to check out the other posts in the series!
- Greene, A. (2011). 2011 White Paper: Why White Rice Cereal for Babies Must Go. Retrieved from http://www.drgreene.com/ebooks/white_paper_white_rice_cereal.pdf