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Is Adding Rice Cereal to Formula Safe for Babies?

May 30, 2023 8 min read

Is Adding Rice Cereal to Formula Safe for Babies?


As Léo J. Burke aptly put it, "People who say they sleep like a baby usually don't have one.". Sleep is a precious commodity amongst those of us with little ones at home, and I don’t know about you, but we’re always looking for new ways to catch some more Z’s!

One tip you’ve likely heard about from your Grandma or perhaps online forums is adding rice cereal to your baby’s bottle to help them have a sound sleep. So, what’s the deal? Is this purely an old wives' tale, or is there some factual basis to this?

In this article, we will be covering the ins and outs of rice cereal, touching on whether it is safe to consume, when it should be introduced, tips for helping your baby sleep, and more!

Is it safe to be adding rice cereal to formula or breast milk?

We understand that putting rice cereal in your baby's bottle can seem like a logical thing to do either to satiate your hungry baby or to improve their sleep, but it turns out that it doesn't hold up to scientific scrutiny.

In fact, mixing any kind of cereal into your baby's bottle is generally, not a good idea. Although, in special circumstances, your pediatrician may recommend that your mix rice cereal into a bottle to help treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

When introducing solids in general, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends waiting until your baby is 4 to 6 months. Introducing solids before this period increases the chances of your baby experiencing a variety of behavioral and health complications.

For instance, your baby may develop impaired self-regulation of hunger and satiety. It can also increase your baby's caloric intake which could lead to gaining excess weight. Finally, beginning solids before 4 months increases the risk of diseases such as necrotizing enterocolitis due to the fact that your baby's intestine is not yet fully mature.

 Is it safe to be adding rice cereal to formula or breast milk? | Organic's Best


Will adding rice to my baby’s bottle help them sleep?

Babies wake up in the middle of the night for a whole host of different reasons, they could be uncomfortable, excited, or hungry, and their sleep schedules are naturally irregular. This means that making them full before bed won't guarantee a longer sleep.

A baby's sleep cycle (circadian rhythm) only lasts 45-60 minutes, and they usually can't sleep for more than 5 hours at a time at 6 months of age. Because of this, they will wake up many times throughout the night and it will likely happen even if they go to bed full. Interestingly, this sleep cycle is thought to be a mechanism that protects them against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).


Will adding rice to my baby’s bottle stop their reflux?

Adding cereal to a bottle will not help with reflux because even though the breast milk or formula will be thicker, cereal is not a special agent intended to manage reflux.Reflux is quite common and happens in healthy babies all the time. It's generally not a cause for concern, and anti-reflux infant formula is not usually necessary, as long as your baby is content, and gaining an appropriate amount of weight.

Although, if your baby is dealing with severe reflux, your doctor may recommend special formula to help manage this. They are often made with a natural thickening agent derived from carob fruit, which has a dense consistency that helps your baby keep food in their tummy thereby reducing regurgitation and vomiting!


Potential Problems Caused by Adding Cereal to a Bottle

Not only is adding rice cereal to your baby's bottle not helpful for getting them to sleep better or managing their reflux, but it can also be dangerous and cause various health problems.

Here's a list of complications that can arise from adding cereal to your baby's bottle:

  • Choking Hazard

  • Lung Issues (Aspiration Risk)

  • Constipation

  • Abdominal Discomfort

  • Excessive Weight Gain

  • Delayed Opportunity to Spoon Feed


When Can I Start Giving Solid Foods to My Baby?

You should only introduce solid foods when your little one is ready and the timing may differ between babies. As mentioned above, 4-6 months of age is a good time to start. Parents should be aware that introducing solid food before this point can lead to problems down the line such as childhood obesity.

Learn More: How and When do Babies Start Eating Baby Food?

There are signs you can keep an eye out for that indicate your little one may be ready for their first bites of solid food. If you're ever unsure if it's the right time for solids, it's always best to consult your pediatrician.

 Signs Your Little One is Ready for Infant Cereal | Organic's Best

Signs Your Little One is Ready for Infant Cereal

The following signs can indicate that your baby is ready to start eating solid foods:

  • Can sit up alone or with support 🪑

  • Has the ability to control their head and neck 👶

  • Opens their mouth when food is offered 😮

  • Able to swallow food (Rather than push it back out) 😋

  • Brings objects to their mouth 👄

  • Tries to grasp small objects ✊

  • Transfers food from the front to the back of the tongue to swallow 👅


How to Start Giving Cereal to Your Baby Safely

We've already covered why you shouldn't serve baby cereal from a bottle, and now it's time to discuss how eating cereal can be accomplished safely. To feed cereal to your baby, ensure that they are sat upright, and then serve cereal with a small spoon. You can begin by doing this once or twice a day after formula or breastfeeding.

Gradually you can increase their serving sizes and adjust the consistency of the cereal by adding less liquid as they get older. It is best to start by offering a single-grain cereal, and of course, always follow the recommended package instructions for your cereal brand of choice!


Is Infant Cereal Healthy for Babies?

You may have heard that rice cereal isn't the best choice of first food because it can contain higher levels of arsenic, which can be dangerous if your baby eats too much. While this is true, research shows that most rice cereals contain less arsenic than the federally recommended maximum. Even so, compared to other grains, rice cereal can contain more arsenic, and for this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends choosing oatmeal cereal instead.

It's worth noting that arsenic is a natural part of our environment. Because of this, traces of it are found in many different foods. We know that seeing the word arsenic associated with your baby's diet can be alarming. However, it is okay for your baby to eat rice cereal in small portions as long as you follow safe feeding guidelines.

If you have any concerns about rice cereal, there are steps you can take to minimize your baby's risk of arsenic exposure. This can involve reducing the number of rice products consumed, purchasing rice grown outside of the US, and cooking rice with excess water, all of which help to minimize your baby's exposure.


What Alternatives Are There to Rice Baby Cereal?

If you're not a fan of baby rice cereal, no worries! There are plenty of other foods you can offer your little one. Any single-grain cereal is a good place for starting solid foods. Many parents turn to simple grains such as oatmeal, millet, or barley!


Here are some of our favorite single-grain products from HiPP and Holle 💞:


our favorite single-grain products from HiPP and Holle | Organic's Best

When looking for cereal, it's best to choose unsweetened iron-fortified infant cereal, instead of ready-to-eat cereals. After your baby is used to single-grain cereals, you can introduce them to more complex cereals with 2 or more grains. That being said, always keep an eye out for symptoms that may indicate your baby is developing food allergies when introducing any new food to your baby.


Here are some of our favorite cereals that are fortified with iron 💞:

 Here are some of our favorite cereals that are fortified with iron | Organic's Best

Other First Foods to Try

Introducing solid foods to your little one is an exciting time, with so many new textures and flavors for them to try. While most parents choose to feed cereal as their baby's first solid food, according to The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), food does not have to be introduced in any particular order.

However, foods must be prepared safely and should be introduced one at a time to help monitor for potential food allergies. By the time your baby is 8 months old, they will likely be more comfortable eating and enjoying many different foods from infant cereals to meats, fruits, vegetables, and more! Below we outline some simple strategies for preparing all kinds of solid food safely for your child.

Here are some tips for preparing solid foods for your baby:

  • Mix cereals and mashed cooked grains with breast milk, formula, or water to make it smooth and easy for your baby to swallow. 🍼

  • Mash pureed vegetables, fruits, and other foods until they are nice and smooth. 🥣

  • Hard fruits and veggies, like apples and carrots, must be cooked first so you can mash or puree them with ease.👩‍🍳

  • Remove all fat, skin, and bones from poultry, meat, and fish, before cooking. 🥩

  • Remove seeds and hard pits from fruits, and then cut the fruit into small pieces. 🥑

  • Cut soft foods into small pieces or thin slices. 🍽️

  • Cut cylindrical foods like hot dogs, sausage, or string cheese, into short thin strips instead of round pieces that could get stuck in the airway. 🌭

  • Cut small spherical foods like grapes, cherries, berries, and tomatoes into little pieces. 🍇

  • Cook and finely grind or mash whole-grain kernels of wheat, barley, rice, and other grains. 🌾


5 Tips for Helping Your Baby Sleep Longer

You shouldn't add rice cereal to your baby's bottle as a way to help them sleep longer, but what canyou do to help your little one get more sleep? See our list below to learn how to encourage that sweet shuteye!

5 healthy ways to promote good sleep hygiene 😴:

  1. Avoid napping during the day

  2. Feed them dinner 2 hours before bedtime

  3. Discontinue screen time an hour before bed

  4. Routine sleep and wake-up times should be maintained

  5. Children should sleep in their own beds

5 Tips for Helping Your Baby Sleep Longer | Organic's Best 


Many parents may think to add rice cereal in a bottle to solve their baby's woes, but hold on a minute! Contrary to popular belief, adding rice cereal to breast milk or formula is typically not a good move. Not only is it unsafe to introduce rice cereal through a bottle and before your little one is of age, but it also won't improve your baby's sleep.

So, what should you do instead? Wait until your baby is 4 to 6 months old before offering them cereal or other first foods, and don't take any solid food shortcuts like putting rice cereal in a bottle.



Please be aware that this information is based on general trends in babies, and it is not medical advice. Your doctor should be your first source of information and advice when considering any changes to your child’s formula and when choosing your child’s formula. Always consult your pediatrician before making any decisions about your child’s diet or if you notice any changes in your child.

Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for your baby because breast milk provides your child with all the essential nutrients they need for growth and development. Please consult your pediatrician if your child requires supplemental feeding.

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