The arrival of a newborn brings immense joy, but it can also bring worries for new parents, especially when it comes to their little one’s nutrition. Here are some must-know facts about baby cereal that can help ease your concerns.
When your pediatrician gives you the green light to begin solids to your baby, often between 4 and 6 months, baby cereal is one of the most popular first foods. These mushy, soft concoctions can be created with rice, barley, oats, and mixed grains, among other components. They assist in sating a baby’s expanding appetite and supply essential nutrients such as iron. Here are three facts concerning infant cereal that parents should be aware of.
Baby Cereal Provides Necessary Iron
According to Erin Quann, Ph.D., R.D., director of nutrition research at Gerber, iron is essential for optimal brain development. As breast milk contains so little of the vitamin, it is particularly necessary for breastfed infants. Two portions of iron-fortified infant cereal (oatmeal, rice, barley, or mixed grains) provide the majority of your infant’s daily iron requirements. Other minerals in infant cereal include zinc, calcium, and vitamins B, C, and E.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that kids are normally born with enough iron to endure for around the first six months of life. But iron must then become an integral element of a healthy, balanced diet. As newborns often begin eating solids between 4 and 6 months of age, adding iron to cereals is a good approach to meet their iron requirements.
If a newborn does not consume enough iron, they can get anemia, also known as iron deficiency. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), iron deficiency in infants is a worldwide issue that affects children in both developing and developed nations and can result in lifelong neurological and behavioral damage.
Baby Cereal Can Serve as a Teaching Tool
Once your infant becomes accustomed to the mushy consistency of baby cereal, you can gradually thicken it by adding less liquid (breast milk or formula). The bland flavor encourages your baby to eat, while the thicker textures teach them how to chew and swallow.
Moreover, thickened baby cereal has possible health benefits: To swallow properly, infants with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or dysphagia require thicker food. Since a thicker cereal can help alleviate reflux, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that parents give their infants oatmeal. And because oatmeal is not a member of the wheat family, it is acceptable for children with celiac disease; however, doctors recommend consuming only gluten-free oatmeal products.
Experts concede that you will likely need to experiment with several oatmeals to reach the desired consistency. If your infant consumes oatmeal cereal from a bottle, you may also need to experiment with various nipples. According to the AAP, “consultation with feeding specialists who can provide specialized assessment is frequently required.”
In addition, the semi-solid consistency of baby cereal acts as a gateway to other finger foods, such as softened fruits, vegetables, and meats. Your infant may easily transition to solid foods if they begin with baby cereal.
Baby Cereal is Consumable
A disturbing study discovered that, on average, baby rice cereals have six times as much arsenic as other grain cereals. According to Dr. Frank Greer, it is still acceptable to serve them in moderation because they have met FDA safety standards. But if you’re worried, you should avoid rice-based products: Other kinds, such as barley and mixed grains, are also iron-rich.
With so many alternatives on the market, avoiding rice cereal can be easy. The options available to parents include enriched multigrain, oatmeal, wheat, barley, quinoa, and buckwheat. Instead, you can make cereals at home by grinding grains and adding formula or breastmilk until you achieve the desired thickness and consistency.
See your pediatrician if you have concerns regarding the safety of certain grains or the types of baby cereal that should be introduced first.
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