Myth or Reality: Is it good to Add Cereal to my Baby's Bottle?
Your baby won't stop crying. All you want is for him to fall asleep so you can sleep even 30 more minutes. The solution for many parents is to add cereal to the bottle. Adding porridge or cereal to your baby's bottle is a common practice and even recommended by some health providers. However, adding cereal before 4 months has negative consequences that can affect the well-being of your baby.
According to studies, adding cereal to a bottle before 4 months is associated with higher rates of food allergies, obesity and gastrointestinal problems. Babies given cereal to milk before 17 weeks (4 1/2 months) are more likely to develop food allergies before age 2, according to Dr. Kate E.C. Grimshaw, Ph.D from the University of Southampton, England.
The digestive system of babies at 4 months is designed to tolerate breast milk. Breast milk is the preferred food for newborns since it has pre-digested proteins. Before 4-6 months, babies do not have the immune system developed to accept solid foods. Which can cause indigestion problems or interfere with your digestive and immune systems. Additionally, baby cereal provides more calories since each teaspoon of cereal adds calories without much nutritional value.
The reasoning behind this myth is that the cereal makes the milk denser, which causes the baby to be full and thus able to sleep better or “hold more at night” –FALSE! There are no studies to prove that giving cereal to a bottle before bedtime improves sleep in babies. One study even compared 106 babies and divided them into two groups: one group added cereal to the bottle and the other only had milk. Then the hours that the two groups slept were evaluated. The results were the same between the two groups. That is, there was no difference in hours of sleep with babies who added cereal to the bottle.
Usually, babies instinctively wake up during the night to eat as they do not yet have the nervous system developed to sleep for 6 continuous hours. Sure, every baby is different. We would all like to have a baby that sleeps 8 hours straight as a newborn. But keep in mind that every baby develops differently. By 2-3 months, babies already have the ability to last 6 hours without eating or waking up.
When should you introduce Cereals?
From 4-6 months you can start introducing cereals with a spoon and not in a bottle.
Before starting complementary feeding, make sure your baby is ready to go. Look for the following signs of development in your baby and answer the following questions:
- Can he hold his head up?
- Can he sit without support or with very little support?
- Does he put his hands or toys in his mouth?
- Can he move his tongue from side to side?
- Does he seems to be interested about the food you eat?
If you answered YES to these questions then your baby is ready!
It may be that your pediatrician recommends you start giving him rice cereal as his first food. Cereal is a food that is usually recommended as a first meal, but it should not be the only one. The reason many doctors recommend it is because it is fortified with iron – a very important mineral during the first year of life. Consider introducing other high iron foods apart from cereal in the first few meals. Choose single-grain, whole-grain (oats, wheat), and iron-fortified cereals. Add 1 tablespoon of cereal and mix it with 4 tablespoons of milk or formula. Start with 1 to 3 times a day and slowly begin to change the texture of the cereal making it thicker when you see that a spoon is tolerated.
Adding cereal to the bottle IS NOT RECOMMENDED, introducing cereal in a spoon YES it is. Wait after 4-6 months to introduce rice/wheat cereal to reduce the risk of allergies, obesity, and gastrointestinal problems. Always introduce the cereal in a spoon and NOT IN THE BOTTLE.