“When will she start on rice cereal?” asked my dad, later the same afternoon. (Yes, I’m calling out my dad again. Hi, Dad!)
“Oh, never!” I replied (yes, smugly. Again). “We’ll be doing Baby Led Weaning! It’s this really great thing where you just start the baby on real foods. But that’s not till six months. The World Health Organization, and also the British and Australian medical authorities, recommends exclusive breastfeeding to six months, then continuing to nurse to two years or more. The American Academy of Pediatricians is a little fuzzier. They say 4-6 months [since revised to ‘about 6 months’] and one year…”
When I paused for breath, my father asked, “Ah, so when do babies start rice cereal?” I fear, gentle reader, I may have dived right back into my sales pitch. (And a worthy pitch it is. If you would like to hear it some time, I am happy to expound.)
“Ah, yes. I understand. But I was just thinking, and it seems like you were about this age when we put rice cereal in your bottle. To help you stay full longer.”
“Yes, you probably did. That was standard advice at the time, and is still much used, especially in formula-feeding families. But more recent science says it’s not helpful and may hurt.”
Here, reader, is the “more recent science.” Rice cereal added to a bottle does not help babies sleep through the night sooner. The thicker texture can lead to aspiration (that is, inhaling the liquid instead of swallowing it), which can in turn lead to chronic respiratory disorders. And the extra calories can interfere with baby’s natural ability to self-regulate portion sizes, leading to overweight in infancy and perhaps beyond. Some physicians recommend thickened feeds as a treatment for infant reflux, but even here the research is mixed.
Rice cereal is, however, a good source of iron. So once your baby is ready for solid food, go ahead and spoon her some rice cereal if you wish. Personally, I can’t be bothered to spoon food for someone else (really, check out Baby Led Weaning; it’s awesome! especially if you’re lazy like me), so my babies ate lots of beans and meat instead. Not as many leafy greens as I’d like, but they do love kale chips. Perhaps I’ll post my recipe here some time so you too can trick your toddlers into eating their vegetables… Watch this space!
[Update: As promised, Jackie’s Kale Chip recipe!]