Photo by Oana Befort
Transitioning babies from milk to solids is a huge milestone. For months your baby has been relying on a liquid diet to grow. Now, it is time to expand their palate! If you have decided to spoon feed, introducing rice cereal to baby will most likely be your first step.
There has been some controversy surrounding rice cereal in recent years. Studies have shown that rice products can contain inorganic arsenic, a cancer causing pesticide. However, most foods contain organic arsenic, which naturally occurs in the earth. The American Academy of Pediatrics has not recommended avoiding rice cereal, citing that further research needs to be conducted. If you choose rice cereal as your baby’s first food, try to find an organic option, or a brown rice cereal to add nutrients. For me, rice cereal was not meant to be my son’s sole source of nutrition, it was meant to be a stepping stone toward solid food. I spoke with my doctor and chose to start my son on rice cereal for two weeks, one serving a day. After that, we transitioned him to oatmeal, a more nutritious option. Check with your doctor to come up with a plan for your baby. Whether you choose to start with rice cereal or oatmeal, here are some tips to help make the experience productive!
Make sure you have the right equipment! Feeding a baby takes a lot of equipment. Make sure you use a spoon with a rubber edge. These spoons are often labeled with age specifications, so be sure you are not using a spoon that is too big for that little baby mouth! Use a small bowl to make it easier to mix a small amount of liquid with the rice cereal. Last, but most importantly, use a rubber bib with a curved edge! This will catch the food that will inevitably dribble out of your baby’s mouth! As I stated previously, most of the food will not be ingested at first.
Prepare the cereal in stages. In the beginning, the cereal should be watery. As time goes by, gradually increasing the thickness of the cereal will help your baby transition from their all liquid diet. A rule of thumb is to increase one tablespoon each day. The recommended serving size is four tablespoons, so start with one tablespoon in four to five ounces of breast milk or formula. Each day, add one tablespoon to the mixture. If your baby is struggling with the thickness, decrease the amount of cereal until they become more comfortable. You can also warm the cereal, since the milk they are used to ingesting is warm. Note: Although some moms may recommend it, putting rice cereal in a bottle is not an effective feeding method unless your doctor recommends it.
Prepare your baby for their first experience with eating from a spoon! Feed your baby milk beforehand. As stated previously, this is a gateway experience with food, not a necessary nutrient! Drinking milk will still be their number one form of nutrition. Make sure they are well fed and happy. After about an hour, get ready for fun with food! Set your baby up in a high chair or infant seat and make sure their bib is secure. Put a little cereal on the high chair, allowing your baby to touch it. If your baby is anything like mine, their hand will go straight into their mouth!
The first bite takes a series of steps. Make sure you have your baby’s attention. You would not like food surprisingly shoved in your mouth, would you? Put a small amount of cereal in the spoon, make eye contact and lightly touch your baby’s lip with the spoon. If your baby is focused in, slowly put the spoon in their mouth. Do not be surprised if they spit it out! It is their first time with something other than milk, so it will take some getting used to. Keep trying, practice makes perfect! If your baby becomes upset, call it a day and try again later. Go easy on yourself, acclimating a baby to food is a tall task! It can take a baby up to twenty exposures to develop a taste for food, so give it time.
This is an exciting time, so remember to have fun with your baby! A whole new world of food is about to be opened to both of you.