When I took Sofía (my oldest daughter who is now 2) to her six month well child checkup, I let her pediatrician know that we had started solids and I was still breastfeeding. He told me that I should give her commercial rice cereal as well, but he didn’t back up his reasoning. I had already made up my mind long before that that I would give her simple fruit and veggie purees before giving her rice cereal.
About a month after she had started eating those purees, I decided to buy a box of rice cereal. I felt like maybe I was doing something wrong if I didn’t follow my pediatrician’s advice. I also heard from other moms that they were feeding their babies rice cereal.
Since then, I have become more educated on the topic. I am currently feeding my second daughter who is 9 months old, and I haven’t given her rice cereal at all. And I don’t plan on ever giving it to her.
“For decades now, without adequate practical or scientific justification, white rice flour cereal has been the predominant food recommended by pediatricians across the United States for babies’ first solid food.” (Greene, p.1)
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I don’t understand why pediatricians still recommend commercial rice cereal. Before I knew much about this cereal, I just didn’t think it would be a good start for my own baby. I was raised on a lot of packaged foods, and I know that they really aren’t the best choice for anybody.
Before I get into why I don’t really care for this rice cereal, here are the reasons why pediatricians continue to recommend rice cereal to parents:
- It is fortified with iron, and babies need iron
- It doesn’t cause allergies
- It is bland
- It is easily digested
- It’s cheap
- It helps babies to sleep through the night once you start them on it
- It’s not harmful to babies
All of these reasons come straight from Dr. Alan Greene’s e-book (referenced below).
Now that I have read up on rice cereal, I don’t agree with any of those reasons for feeding my own baby rice cereal, and here’s why:
- My baby can get iron from other foods and/or breastmilk (Greene, p.8).
- There are plenty of foods you can give baby that do not pose an allergy threat as the first food. Check out THIS post for what I fed my baby the first month when she started solids.
- Plenty of cultures introduce spices to their babies from an early age. I want my baby to taste the variety of real food, not the bland and boring taste of commercial food.
- I puree all of her food so it’s easy to digest. Maybe rice cereal is easily digested, but Dr. Greene sees this as a problem since the cereal almost instantly becomes glucose (Greene, p.4).
- I’ve been keeping track of the cost to feed my baby, and it’s cheaper to give my baby most produce than commercial rice cereal.
- My babies both slept just fine through the night before I ever introduced any solids to them.
- Rice cereal is nothing but convenient and is actually bad for babies in the long run. Diabetes and obesity have both been linked to this first food (Greene, p.1).
If you want to know more about the negative effects of rice cereal, I highly suggest you read Dr. Greene’s paper. The other sources I’ve listed below will also be very helpful.
I’ve referenced Dr. Greene a lot in this post because he seems to be the only source of information for this. He must be the only doctor who is passionate enough about the subject to publish information on it.
Instead of giving my baby rice cereal from the box, I prefer to buy a bag of rice (I buy brown rice) and put it in the blender or food processor for a few minutes until it turns into a fine powder. It might be more of a process than making the commercial rice cereal, but I can tell you that it’s a lot cheaper and a lot healthier.
What are your thoughts on rice cereal?
- 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 (link no longer available)