Should You Put Rice Cereal in Your Baby’s Bottle?
While many moms believe that adding rice cereal to their baby’s bottle can help them to sleep longer and will better satisfy their growing baby’s appetite, putting rice cereal into your baby’s bottle is generally a bad idea.
There is one exception to this steadfast rule: If your child has reflux. For babies with reflux, many pediatricians recommend adding rice cereal to thicken formula, which can help reduce reflux symptoms. This practice, however, should only be done under your pediatrician’s watchful eye as adding cereal to bottles otherwise could cause more harm than good.
A baby’s immature digestive system wasn’t meant to digest solids straight out of the womb. Adding rice cereal to a baby’s diet too early, even when added to a bottle, can lead to constipation and other uncomfortable digestive issues. Babies may not have the enzymes necessary to break down the cereal which can lead to tummy troubles and overall discomfort.
Introducing solid foods before 4 months of age may also cause food allergies. While the experts disagree if adding rice cereal to a baby’s bottle can induce specific allergies, most experts do agree that serious allergies can result when an individual is exposed to an allergen early in life. While oatmeal and barley based cereals may be more common allergens, it’s best to steer clear of introducing potential allergens for as long as possible.
In the early months, babies haven’t yet fully developed the reflexes and coordination necessary to swallow anything but breast milk or formula. Adding rice cereal to a bottle can be a real choking hazard for babies who aren’t yet coordinated enough to swallow the thickened liquid. When babies inhale rather than swallow cereal during feedings serious pulmonary problems can arise.
Introducing rice into a baby’s bottle can also offset their self-regulation. When cereal is added to a baby’s bottle, the caloric intake of the baby’s feeding increases. Babies are born with the ability to self-regulate their intake. Adding cereal to a bottle can cause that regulation to falter, which can lead to obesity later in life.
For babies who become accustomed to getting additional calories from their bottle, introducing solid foods on a spoon can be problematic. Babies who are routinely full from their bottles may be less interested in learning to master the art of eating by spoon.
While many parents add cereal to bottles in hopes of increasing their baby’s sleep, doing so doesn’t actually help. According to a study by the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, adding rice cereal to a baby’s bottle before bedtime does not increase sleep; however since the time frame parents may consider adding cereal to their baby’s bottle coincides with the time frame babies typically begin to sleep for longer periods and go longer in between feedings, it may appear to parents that adding cereal to a baby’s bottle is an effective way to increase sleep and satisfy hunger.