Many parents are eager to begin feeding their babies cereal. Often, they try to give it before the baby is ready, with disappointing results. In this article, we talk about when your baby is ready to try cereal, how to introduce it, and which baby cereals are best.
When To Give A Baby Cereal
How to Introduce Cereal to Your Baby
The Best Baby Cereals
Best Single-grain Cereal
Best Organic Cereal
Best Cereal-Fruit Mixes
At the newborn stage, babies can’t eat cereal or other solid foods because they’re unable to move food to the back of the mouth to swallow (that’s why they need a nipple and not a straw). As he or she grows, your baby will develop the physical capacity to begin eating cereal from a spoon. Your baby’s pediatrician should tell you when to start offering cereal, but here are the general signs that your baby is ready for it.
- Is 4-6 months old (adjusted age), meaning that your original due date was 4-6 months ago. Usually it’s closer to 6 months.
- Can sit up with support from a high chair, pillow, Bumbo or Bebepod.
- Holds his or her head up without help.
- Shows interest in solid food, either by grabbing at your plate or opening his or her mouth when a spoon is offered.
Of course, you should also have the approval of your baby’s pediatrician.
- Is 6-8 months old and eats single-grain cereal daily.
- Can sit independently without need of support.
- Shows excitement when food is presented (that’s from Gerber).
The mixed-grain cereal tends to be a bit heavier. You don’t have to give it instead of single-grain cereal; you can offer both at different times. Mixed-grain cereal is great for thickening running baby foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, and most fruits. Single-grain rice cereal is very fine-grained, which is ideal if you spike some cereal into the nighttime bottle.
If you think your baby is ready and you have the green light from the pediatrician, here are some tips for introducing your baby to cereal, based on some research and my own experience. Your baby’s first cereal should be a single-grain cereal. Most parents start with single-grain rice cereal because it’s very fine-grained and seems less likely to cause gagging.
|1. Start giving cereal once a day in the morning.This is generally when your baby is both hungry and well-rested, both of which will help you succeed. Once he or she gets the hang of it, you may want to give your baby cereal in the evening to help him or her sleep longer at night.|
|2. Mix 1 teaspoon of cereal to 4-5 teaspoons of breast milk or formula.This gives the cereal a familiar taste that your baby is less likely to reject. The resulting mixture will be thin and runny (messy) so bring out the best bib you have, and think about putting your baby in a high chair or baby seat that has a plastic tray.|
|3. Have a bottle ready.All new experiences aside, your baby will probably grow tired or frustrated and just want a bottle. It’s better to try the cereal before the bottle, so that they’re hungrier and so that you have something to soothe him or her with afterward.|
|4. Use a small, soft-tipped spoon.You’ll understand why once you try it. Even the most dextrous of parents may struggle in hitting the moving target of a baby’s mouth. Also, you only want to offer a little bit at a time to reduce gagging. The Gerber soft-bite infant spoons are ideal for this.|
|5. Be patient and expect to fail.At first, your baby will probably have no idea what’s going on or how to handle the cereal. About 90% of the cereal will end up on the bib, the tray, the floor, and you. It will probably takes weeks of practice until your baby gets it, at which point only around 10% of the cereal will end up all over the place.|
As you make progress in giving your baby cereal, you may branch out to try other kinds. I recommend single-grain oat cereal next; it has a very different texture and your baby may like the taste better than rice cereal.
There are a lot of baby cereals out there. You can usually find a few options at your local grocery store. Don’t buy too much at once! Once you find a cereal that your baby likes, however, you might wish to buy in bulk since your baby will be eating it for 6 months or more, and baby cereal keeps very well.
For certain cereals, you can sign up on Amazon Subscribe N Save to have them delivered free on a regular basis. You get 15% off the Amazon price but there’s no commitment, so I really take advantage of this for diapers, cereal, and other baby staples.
|Gerber Single-Grain Rice Cereal
Gerber makes a quality single-grain rice cereal for babies that should probably be the first one you try. You should be able to find this in your local grocery store. Buy a box and see if your baby likes it. If so, you can mix it with breast milk, formula, pureed baby food, or even water.Gerber rice cereal is gentle because it’s made with single, natural grains that are easy to digest and its smooth, fine texture is developmentally appropriate for your baby’s first solid food.The easily-digestible, fine-grain texture of rice cereal makes it ideal to add to the nighttime bottle as well, which often gets a baby to sleep longer. Yes, most pediatricians frown on this, and most parents do it anyway. Just make sure to try spoon-feeding in the daytime so that your baby learns to eat that way.
|Gerber Single-Grain Oatmeal Cereal
Gerber’s single grain oatmeal cereal is what I’d recommend you try next, either after success with the rice cereal (to introduce some variety) or if your baby rejects the rice cereal (to offer a different taste).The texture of oatmeal cereal is different and slightly coarser.All of my babies loved it, particularly when mixed with a vegetable or fruit. Their favorite cereal mix-ins were carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, and apples. They also like it plain, either with water or formula.Make sure that you add enough liquid, though; this cereal will gag your baby if it’s too dry.I don’t recommend the oatmeal as a mix-in for the nightly bottle, because it seems to clog even level-3 nipples.You should be able to find Gerber Single Grain Oatmeal cereal in your supermarket or grocery store in the baby food section.
|HAPPYBELLIES Organic Brown Rice Cereal
The bestselling organic baby cereal on Amazon is from the HappyBellies line of HappyBaby. This whole-grain cereal has a lot to like:
Vitamins and minerals: ascorbic acid, calcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, reduced iron, alpha tocopheryl acetate, thiamine hydrochloride, riboflavin, niacinamide, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, cyanocobalamin, zinc oxide
|Earth’s Best Organic Whole Grain Oatmeal Cereal
The best-reviewed organic oatmeal cereal on Amazon is made by Earth’s Best, which has a complete line of organic baby foods. Their organic oatmeal features:
|Earth’s Best Organic Rice Cereal with Apples
This extremely popular mix combines the whole grain organic rice cereal with apples for a naturally sweet and tasty cereal. Your baby might prefer this over plain rice cereal, because the apples give a little flavor to it.Earth’s Best organic cereals are grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or genetic engineering. There’s no definitive evidence that these things are harmful to humans, but the less man-made chemicals going into your baby, the better.
|Earth’s Best Organic Oatmeal Cereal with Bananas
Another popular mix combines the Earth’s Best organic oatmeal whole grain cereal with bananas for a tasty mix. The banana flavor doesn’t always mix well with other baby foods, but many infants seem to like it plain.Again, these organic cereals are grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or genetic engineering.