5 Healthy Alternatives to Rice Cereal for Your Baby

If you’re feeding your baby rice cereal, it’s helpful to have some alternatives for this popular infant cereal on hand. There are many alternatives to rice cereal, including oat, barley, amaranth, millet and quinoa. One of the top reasons many mothers are trying to find an alternative is arsenic in rice cereal.

When Can Babies Begin Eating Solids?

Babies can start eating solids when they are about six months. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there are several signs you can look for to know if your baby is ready for solid foods. These signs include:

  • Holding their head up without assistance.
  • Sitting with little or no support
  • Reduced tongue thrust reflex
  • Baby shows interest when food is nearby or leans forward when you offer food

Typically, babies are ready for solid foods when their birth weight has doubled. Note that some babies may double in weight before they’re ready for solid foods. Be sure to look for several signs before proceeding with solids.

Rice cereal is a popular solid that people begin feeding their babies around the age of six months. After providing their babies rice cereal for a little while, parents can then offer various other solid foods.

Before the six-month mark, babies should exclusively be breastfed or drink formula. Babies cannot eat rice cereal properly until they are six months old.

Should Babies Eat Rice Cereal?

Rice cereal is often the first food that parents feed their babies because it’s easy on a baby’s digestive system.

While rice cereal is usually recommended for babies starting at four months of age, it’s not the healthiest food for babies to start eating.

If possible, try to limit feeding your baby rice cereal. Fortunately, there are alternatives to rice cereal.

Your baby can still learn to eat solid foods while getting the nutrients they need and avoiding the unhealthy ingredients in rice cereal.

Why Is Rice Cereal Not the Best Option?

There are some reasons that you should avoid rice cereal. Because there are alternatives available, there is no reason for your baby to eat rice cereal.

First, rice cereal contains arsenic, which is found in soil and water. It may be highly concentrated in rice cereal from the farming process. Rice absorbs more arsenic than other crops. Arsenic can damage the nervous system and cause low concentration and memory.

Also, rice cereal doesn’t have much nutrition left over after it’s made into cereal. This process removes the vitamins and minerals that it contains.

Also, rice cereal is bland and flavorless, which doesn’t help your baby get familiar with various flavors and textures. By introducing your baby to different fruits, vegetables, and proteins, they can get used to trying new foods and textures.

Healthy Alternatives to Rice Cereal

Instead of feeding your baby rice cereal, you should look into offering your baby a variety of different grains that are full of nutrients.

It’s important to give your baby a few different types of cereals. As mentioned, variety can help your baby to get used to different flavors and textures.

These are some of the alternatives to rice cereal:

  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Barley
  • Amaranth
  • Millet

Many different companies offer these foods designed specifically for babies. There are also recipes available online so that you can make homemade cereal for your baby. Here’s a recipe for homemade oatmeal for babies.

When you start feeding your baby new foods, take things slowly. Monitor your baby closely whenever they are eating to ensure they don’t choke or respond negatively to a particular food.

You should be aware of any allergic reactions as well, such as hives or diarrhea. By giving your baby one new food at a time, you can identify what food caused the reaction.

What to Give Baby for Constipation

It can be hard to identify constipation in babies because they cannot talk and tell you what’s wrong. Check out the list below for several signs of constipation. If the problem persists, be sure to consult your baby’s pediatrician.

Signs of constipation in babies:

  • Infrequent stools
  • Straining to have bowel movements
  • Stools that are small and hard, similar to pebbles
  • Liquid stool (could be moving past hard stools that haven’t passed)
  • Distended belly

If your baby is on solid foods and appears to be constipated, you can help by feeding them whole wheat or barley cereal.

Certain fruit and vegetable purees can cause constipation as well. If your baby has frequent constipation issues, avoid bananas and sweet potatoes.

Fruits That Help

Fruits that start with the letter “P” are known to soften stools. You can feed your baby prunes, pears, plums, and peaches to help with constipation.

These can be added to your baby’s regular diet to try and prevent constipation before it happens.

Keep in mind that constipation may be due to a variety of medical conditions. If your baby has frequent constipation, it’s essential to talk to your baby’s pediatrician.

You may need to try switching formulas. There are a variety of low lactose and lactose-free baby formulas on the market.

Should Baby Cereal Be Added to Bottles?

You should not put rice cereal or any other type of infant cereal in your baby’s bottle. Cereals should not be mixed with infant formula or breast milk. Doing this can lead to overeating and food allergies if introduced before 6 months.

Sometimes, parents will add rice cereal to their baby’s bottle to help with sleep issues. While this may help babies go to sleep faster, it can mask the real issue at hand.

Suppose your baby is having trouble sleeping due to a health concern, such as digestive issues. In that case, you should address that instead of filling your baby up with cereal.

Precautions to Take When Feeding Baby Solids

When you’re feeding your baby solids, take things slow. You want to give your baby small bites to ensure they can handle the amount of food you’re putting in their mouth.

When it’s time to start feeding baby at 6 months, you should look out for signs of allergic reactions. To better notice any possible reactions, try to provide one new food at a time. Once you know that your baby doesn’t respond poorly with a rash, constipation, or another issue, you can move onto a different type of food.

As you feed your baby solid foods, avoid cow’s milk. Babies cannot digest the milk proteins in cow’s milk until they are one year old. You might have heard that you can mix cow’s milk with rice cereal, but this isn’t ideal.

Neither breastfed nor formula-fed babies can digest cow’s milk properly. If your baby consumes cow’s milk, they may have constipation issues and other digestive issues.

What is Baby Led Weaning?

Instead of feeding your baby purees and infant cereals, you can consider baby-led weaning.

Baby-led weaning is a way to introduce your baby to soft finger foods. With baby-led weaning, you will typically skip any infant cereals and baby purees altogether. You might feed your baby with various fruits, vegetables, grains, meat, and dairy that you serve the whole family.

Baby-led weaning is growing in popularity, but it’s not for everyone! You have to make the best decision for your baby and family.

Should You Contact the Pediatrician for Guidance?

It’s a good idea to contact your baby’s pediatrician if you have any concerns at any point in your baby’s development. A pediatrician can help you know whether you’re making the best choices for your baby’s health.

If you have seemingly minor concerns, it can still be helpful to contact the pediatrician. Talking with the pediatrician can help put your worries to rest so you can provide your baby with the care they need.

Your baby’s pediatrician might have additional recommendations and resources at each of your baby’s milestones. Talk to your baby’s pediatrician about how you plan on feeding your baby and see if they have any advice.

Bottom Line: Add Variety!

While rice cereal is very popular, it’s not the safest or healthiest option for a baby’s first food. Instead, try a different type of infant cereal. You may also feed your baby purees or look into baby-led weaning.

There are a variety of ways to feed your baby. What’s most important is that your baby is fed and healthy.

If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your baby’s pediatrician.