Infant cereal is frequently the first solid food that a baby consumes. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends mixing these bland, iron-fortified foods with breast milk or formula and introducing them roughly halfway through the baby's first year. Renowned pediatrician William Sears advises parents to choose cereals that contain at least 1 gram of protein and 6 to 10 milligrams of iron in each serving. Consult your baby's pediatrician about different types of infant cereals and their relative benefits and risks.
Rice is Nice
Rice-based infant cereals are widely regarded as the most palatable and hypoallergenic option for young children. Rice has a naturally bland flavor, so babies will be able to taste the familiar undertones of formula or breast milk in the mixed meal. Cereals made with brown rice contain higher quantities of fiber, which is essential to a baby's digestive health, while white rice cereals generally provide little to no fiber.
The Joys of Oatmeal
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends oatmeal infant cereal as a good choice for young babies. Oatmeal is naturally rich in fiber and plant-based antioxidants, and most young children enjoy its mild and slightly nutty flavor. Many oatmeal infant cereals also contain added dry fruit, such as banana or raspberry. Introduce fruit-enhanced oatmeal after single-ingredient oatmeal or you might have difficulty figuring out the cause of an allergic reaction in your little one.
Infant cereals made from wheat are popular but controversial. The American Academy of Pediatrics changed recommendations for introducing wheat to a baby's diet in 2008, according to physician David M. Fleischer, with the AAP Section on Allergy and Immunology. The AAP has given the go-ahead to introduce wheat into your baby's diet at between 4 and 6 months, after your little one has tried a few other fruits, vegetables and cereals successfully. Talk to your baby's doctor if you have concerns about introducing wheat.
Barley may be an ingredient in some infant cereals, but adult foods generally don't feature this grain. Barley-based infant cereals may be less risky to children with a known or suspected allergy to other grains. Many little ones enjoy its pleasant flavor, blending well with the taste of milk and fruit. Like other cereal grains, barley is a good source of fiber and it may include extra iron fortification.
Mixing it Up
After your baby has eaten each type of cereal grain individually, you can introduce combination cereals. These may include two to five different types of grain. Mixed cereals can give much-needed nutritional variety to your baby's diet, and some babies prefer the flavor of these products. Some also contain added ingredients such as milk solids, dried fruit, algae oil or natural preservatives. Consult your baby's doctor if you have any questions regarding the appropriate age for introducing these individual foods to your child.
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