Parents everywhere feed their babies rice cereal at some point. Sometimes as early as four months. But it has become so normal, that I don’t think a lot of people even wonder what the point of it is, and if they do, they’re told it “fills the baby up more” and that it “helps the baby sleep better” (aka puts them in a digestive coma) WIC recommends baby cereal, and so do most pediatricians. But I’m here to tell you there is absolutely no good reason to give your baby rice cereal.
The fact of the matter is, your baby can’t digest rice cereal. Your baby can’t digest any grains until after they’ve reached a year of age at the very earliest, and some babies can’t until two! To digest grains, the body makes an enzyme called amylase. Amylase splits the starches in the grains, making them digested! Simple science, really. Your baby does not make enough of this enzyme to properly digest rice cereal until atleast a year of age. Because the baby doesn’t properly digest the rice cereal, it throws off the bacterial balance in the baby’s gut and can lead to food allergies, behavioral problems and more. Truth is, you shouldn’t be giving your baby anything with grains or high-starch content until all their first molars come in (this is when their pancreas begins to excrete enough amylase) This includes rice cereal and things such as Cheerios and mashed potatoes; common first solids.
There’s also the fact that rice cereal is about as nutritional for your baby as wallpaper paste. The very first ingredient you will find on rice cereal is rice flour, which is processed and bleached to the point of removing all nutrients and vitamins from it, thus leaving a grainy, starchy goop that is the equivalent of giving the baby a big spoonful of sugar. Rice cereal also contains ingredients that the breastfed baby’s stomach is not accustomed to, thus being a shock to her system, such as lecithin (a big fancy word for fat) and soy oil.
Then there’s the ever-so famous thought that feeding the baby rice cereal makes them sleep longer. First of all, this leads to baby being dependent on having a belly full of food to fall asleep. Secondly, there is absolutely no research or data that proves that feeding of rice cereal makes a baby sleep longer. When you give baby the thick rice cereal immediately before putting them to sleep, you throw their whole body out of whack. The heaviness of the rice cereal in addition to the fact that they can’t digest it, causes the baby to practically go into a digestive coma. When their body is supposed to be resting (during sleep) it’s actually hard at work trying to digest something that it can’t. This actually leads to less fulfilling sleep and can make the baby extremely cranky when waking. We all know that we shouldn’t eat a heavy meal before bed, so why do we try and stuff one down the baby before he/she goes to bed?
You may be asking yourself, if not rice cereal, what are some good alternatives to give the baby as a first food. There are many, and these include the almighty avocado, bananas, steamed carrots, applesauce, peas and more. Just puree them (or in the case of carrots, cook them until they are puree-able, then puree) and even add breast milk if you like, and feed! Your baby will appreciate the actual flavor of the food (as opposed to the tasteless wallpaper paste) and you will appreciate knowing that he’s getting some nutritious foods.
So tell me, what did you feed your baby for a first food? What is your opinon on/experience with rice cereal, if any?