How Long to Continue Baby Cereal

How long your child should continue to eat infant cereals depends on a number of factors. Your child’s diet, timing of weaning from breast-feeding or formula, and your doctor’s opinion are all considerations when deciding at what point to stop infant cereal and switch to more grown-up baby food.

Why Infant Cereal?

It may seem like oatmeal is oatmeal, but there is a difference between baby cereals and those meant for adults. Baby cereals are designed to meet the nutritional needs of infants, which differ from those of adults. Because most babies are not able to eat the same varied diet as a grown person, they require extra nutrients. They are also growing and developing at a rapid rate, which means their little bodies need certain things more than an adult might.

The main difference between a baby cereal and the average box of oats is iron. Cereals designed for babies have been fortified with this important mineral, which helps your baby’s growing body to create new red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. Some infant cereals are also fortified with DHA and ARA, which are thought to support eye and brain development. In addition to these, baby cereals contain a number of other vitamins and minerals to help your baby grow.

At a certain point, when your child has become proficient at chewing and swallowing other foods, it will be possible to get the entire spectrum of required nutrients from a varied baby food diet. Particularly during the first two years of life, however, most children need an extra boost in the nutritional department.

Other Sources of Iron

Fortified infant cereal isn’t the only way your baby can get extra iron. Most doctors will recommend a liquid vitamin and mineral supplement for your baby, especially after weaning from the breast or bottle is complete. Some of these supplements contain iron – be sure to check the label to be sure before you buy.

If you are planning to breastfeed into the second year, your baby will get more iron than if you switch entirely to whole milk. This still may not be enough, especially as your baby nurses less often over time.

Keeping Infant Cereal in The Mix

As your baby gets older and enjoys thicker, chunkier foods, infant cereal might not be as interesting, especially as it tends to be bland. There are a number of ways to make infant cereal a bit more interesting to an older child, Mix it with chunkier fruits or vegetables, or add raisins and a touch of honey for taste – but don’t do this until after a year old, as honey is not safe for babies under one. You can also blend it with a thicker oatmeal that might be more interesting to your older child’s palate.

If you can’t get your older child to eat infant cereal, don’t despair. There are many other ways to get enough iron in your little one’s diet. Be sure to use iron supplements, and offer iron rich foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, green vegetables and beans. There are also some cereals on the market meant for adults that have been fortified with iron, such as instant oatmeal. Check labels to look for added iron before you buy.

If you are concerned about your child’s iron intake, talk to your pediatrician. A simple blood test can check for anemia to make sure your little one is healthy.

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