Oatmeal vs Rice Cereal for Babies: Find Out Which is Best for Your Child

Find out the differences between oatmeal vs rice cereal for babies, as well as how to choose the right one for your little one.

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So your little one is ready to start infant cereal—yay! This is a new milestone that brings adorable pictures of messy faces and hopefully longer stretches between nursing or bottles. With all of the brands and varieties on the market, it can be difficult to know where to start. Don’t worry, you’ve got this.

First, make sure that your little one is ready to start solids (here are some tips) and that he’s able to sit upright. Adding single-grain cereals, like oatmeal and rice, to a little breast milk or formula is an easy way for baby to get accustomed to the exciting new taste and texture. But which one is best?

Oatmeal vs Rice Cereal for Babies

Both oatmeal and rice cereals are single-grain cereals that are safe for most babies. For years rice cereal was the go-to first food for infants. It’s bland, well-tolerated and easy to prepare. This has changed in recent years once it was discovered that rice cereal can have higher levels of arsenic than other types of cereal. Experts recommend limiting your baby’s rice cereal serving to no more than ¼ cup per day. Check out our complete list of preferred first foods here.

Editor’s tip: Make sure that the cereal you choose is fortified with iron. This is especially important for breastfed babies because they haven’t been exposed to iron-fortified formula.

Oatmeal cereal is also bland like rice but has a slightly nutty taste. One benefit of oatmeal is its nutritional component. Oatmeal is naturally high in fiber and other nutrients, whereas most rice cereal has been stripped of its nutrients.

Here’s our list of best baby food cereals of all kinds.

The Best Cereal for Reflux

If your little one has been experiencing acid reflux, you no doubt are ready to do anything to ease her discomfort. Talk with your pediatrician about the best meal plan for her and stick with thicker infant cereals. Giving your baby thicker food reduces the chance of it coming back up.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends oatmeal cereal for babies with acid reflux. Because of the possible arsenic exposure with rice cereal, experts believe oatmeal is the safer choice. It’s also wheat-free, so won’t irritate your baby’s stomach if she is sensitive or allergic to gluten.

If your doctor recommends thickening your baby’s milk with oatmeal to help with reflux, mix in a small amount to formula or just-expressed breast milk. Keep your little one upright during feedings and take breaks as needed.

The Bottom Line

Whether your baby starts with oatmeal or rice cereal, it’s best to offer your baby a variety of stage 1 foods with different flavors, textures and nutrients. Plus, your child will have many years ahead to enjoy tasty treats made with rice cereal—like these easy marshmallow cereal bar recipes.

Psst! These are the best organic baby foods you can buy on Amazon.

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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.