Your baby is ready to try "solid" food! While an infant’s primary source of nutrition should be breast milk or formula for the first 12 months, around 6 months of age most health care providers suggest trying to add some type of "solid" food to your baby’s diet. Typically this means starting with adding formula or breast milk to rice, barley or oat cereal.
Consult with your baby’s health care provider before you begin any "solid" food preparations. Doing so will make sure that your baby is developmentally ready for this new step. Not all babies are ready for solid foods by six months of age. Asking your provider when they’re ready will help you start solid foods successfully!
If you are not using ready-to-eat baby formula, prepare 2 to 3 ounces of baby formula to mix with the rice cereal. Making a small amount will hopefully save you from wasting much. You can make more if you need it to get the exact consistency of infant cereal and formula that you need. There are some cereals that come with formula mixed in already and you will not need to add formula to the cereal (only water). Be sure you know which kind you have before preparing it.
Understand that most physicians agree that starting with rice cereal is best. Rice proteins are very mild on a baby’s maturing and sensitive digestive system and tend to cause few allergies. When adding new foods to your baby’s diet be sure to wait seven days to be sure that your little one has not developed an allergic reaction. If you add new foods before that, it will be difficult to know which food actually caused the reaction.
Follow the ratios of ingredients provided on the cereal packaging when preparing the cereal. These instructions will guide you in making the consistency of cereal that is perfect for your child. If your baby has not eaten any "solid" foods yet, follow the directions for preparing the cereal for first timers! The cereal will look more like a liquid than a solid. This consistency is thicker than straight formula but not as thick as soft baby foods. This will help baby to learn how to move the food in their mouth. The baby will need to develop using their tongue differently (from sucking) and help them master swallowing.
- Do not ever add rice cereal to infant formula in a bottle unless directed to do so by your physician for specific medical diagnosis. Scientists at the Cleveland Clinic determined that this does not help baby sleep through the night. Adding cereal to formula in a bottle can also delay the infant from eating the "solid" food off of a spoon and more dangerously can cause babies to choke and increase the risk of aspiration (sucking the formula and rice cereal into the lungs while choking) which can lead to pneumonia. Additionally, physicians agree that adding cereal to a formula bottle likely interrupts the mechanism babies have that helps them eat only the calories they need by increasing the caloric load of the volume of food they drink. By adding cereal to your baby’s bottle you may be teaching them to overeat and put them at risk for obesity later in life.
- Do not add anything other than breast milk or formula to rice cereal. As you move your baby through a range of solid foods you can increase the combinations you use. But until your baby is exposed to the proteins of each food you’ll want to limit their exposure. Doing this will help you easily identify the cause of an allergic reaction.