What You Need to Know About Baby Food Cereal, According to the Experts

So your little one is ready to try baby food cereal, but where do you begin? We've rounded up the latest research all parents need to know before starting solid foods.

Baby food cereals made from rice or whole grains have always been baby’s go-to first foods. They are bland, easy to digest and low-allergenic. Like some of our favorite baby food recipes, they’re also quick and easy to prepare for parents. While baby food cereal is a great choice for your baby’s first food, they’re not the only option. Here’s the truth about how much cereal your baby really needs.

Your Baby Needs the Iron

Up until about six months of age, your baby is getting all the nutrition she needs from breast milk or formula; except for iron. Babies need another source of iron from a supplement or baby food cereal. A study in the Journal of Pediatrics found that a high percentage of healthy breastfed infants were deficient in iron. Not having enough iron can affect the number of good bacteria in your baby’s gut.

Fortunately, there’s an easy solution! Baby food cereals like rice cereal or oatmeal cereal are fortified with iron. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that feeding your baby an iron supplement or iron-fortified cereal were equally helpful in meeting your baby’s iron requirements.

Check out these other iron-rich first foods for baby.

Choose a Variety

While baby food cereals are a good choice for new eaters because of their bland taste, it’s important to spice it up. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, infants can start picking up picky eating habits at around nine months. Try rotating the type of cereal you offer your baby to give him new flavors and textures to try. Infant cereals like oatmeal, barley and multigrain will all provide nutrients and new tastes. Rice cereal is a good choice too, but try to limit it to no more than once per day. Other first foods to offer can include pureed fruits, vegetables and meats.

It Takes Time

While most babies are ready to start eating infant cereal between four and six months, it’s best to let your baby take the lead. Your baby is probably ready for cereal when she is able to hold her head up, opens her mouth when she sees the food and tries to reach for the spoon. Read more about what to expect when you start baby-lead weaning.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends trying a new food 10 to 15 times for your child to accept it. This process can take months, so don’t worry that you’re doing something wrong if it’s been a slow journey. Once your baby gets the hang of cereal, try mixing in other first foods for new flavors to enjoy.

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Carrie Madormo, RN
Now a freelance health and food writer, Carrie worked as a nurse for over a decade. When she isn't hunched over her laptop with a baby in hand, you will find her cooking her grandmother’s recipes, lacing up her running shoes or sipping coffee in the bathroom to hide from her three young children.