Introducing your Baby to Cereal

The traditional first food for babies, infant cereal is a great choice because it is easy to digest, unlikely to cause an allergic reaction and can be made as thin or as thick as you would like. Of the cereals on the market, rice is usually the best bet for a first cereal as it is the least likely to provoke any kind of reaction in your baby’s system.

Choosing a Cereal

The baby food aisle can be a bit overwhelming for a first-time parent. Today there are more choices than ever before available and even picking a cereal isn’t as easy as it used to be. There are multiple brands on the shelves and you can also choose from cereals fortified with supplements like DHA and ARA (fatty acids linked to brain and eye development) as well as organic cereals.

It is probably best to start with the most basic cereal you can find. Since your baby’s first feedings with infant cereal are less about nutrition than about introducing the concept of solids, you don’t need to worry about things like supplements just yet. Your baby is getting all the required nutrition from breast milk or formula and should continue to do so throughout the first year.

Whether or not you choose an organic baby cereal is a personal decision. Organic baby foods do not contain any different nutrition than non-organic ones, and carry a heftier price tag. For some parents who strongly believe in an organic baby food diet, this extra money might be worth paying. Either way, stick with rice cereal for your baby’s first attempt at solids, and see how it goes before you try something else such as oatmeal.

The First Feeding

The first time you offer your baby an infant cereal, mix it very thin using breast milk or formula. Then offer a small amount on the tip of your clean finger. Try putting the cereal on baby’s bottom lip to allow him to get a taste before he decides to open his mouth for more. If he makes a face, don’t worry. The taste is new and the texture is different, and many babies will give their first cereal a funny look the first few times they taste it. However, if he clamps up tight and won’t try any more, don’t push it. Your baby may not be ready yet, or just isn’t in the mood to try. Give it another shot the next day, or wait a few more days before trying again.

Once you get your baby to take some cereal from your finger and he is showing interest in having more, you can bring out the spoon. Be sure to choose a rubber-tipped spoon that will be gentle on your baby’s gums. As before, start with a very small amount on the spoon, and offer it to your baby. He might not open his mouth right away, even if the finger-fed cereal was a hit. He isn’t quite sure what the spoon is all about. Again, try putting a dab of cereal on the bottom lip. When he tastes it and decides it’s all right, you can proceed with another spoonful.

Stick to very small amounts for the first few feedings, but gradually increase the portions as your baby shows more interest in eating. Be prepared for a mess! Your baby may spit baby food out, turn his head suddenly when the spoon nears, or even try to grab the spoon and send the contents flying! It’s all part of the adventure, so buckle in for the ride.

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