The Effects of Feeding a Baby Rice Cereal in a Bottle

by Lisa Hays

    An old wives' tale claims that feeding your baby rice cereal through her bottle fills her tummy and helps her sleep through the night. Recent studies have shown that babies who have plain formula or breast milk before bed sleep just as long or longer than those who have rice cereal added to their bedtime bottles. Not only is there a lack of benefit from feeding babies cereal through their bottles, there are a lot of potential negative effects.

    Obesity

    Feeding your baby rice cereal, whether through a bottle or a spoon, may increase her risk for childhood obesity, according to Dr. Alan Greene, a pediatrician at Stanford University, quoted on ABC News. Rice cereal is high in calories and is mostly starch, but your baby doesn't know that. She still wants to finish her bottle, or the same volume she is used to, without knowing the difference in calories. However, there are healthier and more nutrient-dense ways to fill up your child without contributing to excess weight gain or raised blood sugar.

    Food Allergies

    If you are considering feeding your child cereal through a bottle, she is likely too young to have any food other than breast milk or formula. Solids shouldn't be introduced until around the age of 6 months, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. At that point, you can begin to spoon-feed cereal to your baby. Introducing solids before 4 to 6 months increases infants' risk for developing food allergies later in life, says the AAP.

    Choking

    Bottle nipples have very tiny holes because they are made to allow thin liquids to flow out very slowly. To allow cereal to pass through a nipple, parents must widen the opening with scissors or a knife. This causes both the cereal and the liquid to flow quickly out of the nipple. When babies are not able to swallow quickly enough to keep up with the speed of their milk or formula, it creates a choking hazard.

    Poor Sleeping Habits

    It is a common myth that adding cereal to a baby's bottle helps her sleep through the night. Parents usually start putting cereal in bottles around the same time that babies happen to become developmentally ready to start sleeping for longer periods of time. This creates the illusion that the cereal itself actually causes babies to sleep longer. Studies have shown that babies who have cereal in their bedtime bottles, on average, sleep the same amount of time or less than those who have just breast milk or formula. Babies who are too young for solids may have a hard time digesting the cereal, causing stomach problems that make them wake up more often than they would otherwise.

    About the Author

    Lisa Hays writes articles on parenting, focused on breastfeeding and natural parenting methods. She holds a bachelor's degree from Morehead State University, where she studied child development and education. She is currently working toward becoming an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant.

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