Why not to feed baby rice cereal

FDA warns parents about arsenic in rice cereal

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For years, rice cereal has been a go-to for parents when they start their babies on solid foods.

It’s time to change that.

In 2012, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a report warning about high levels of inorganic arsenic in rice and rice products. Rice plants are particularly good at absorbing arsenic from the soil, in particular because they grow in a lot of water. Inorganic arsenic is a common ingredient in pesticides and other products used in farming, and can linger in the soil for a long time after it is used. It can be poisonous. In high doses it is lethal, but even small amounts can damage the brain, nerves, blood vessels, or skin — and increase the risk of birth defects and cancer. The CPSC report said that babies who eat two servings of rice cereal a day could double their lifetime cancer risk.

The FDA has been studying this problem, and has decided to propose a new upper limit, or “action level,” for inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal of 100 parts per billion (ppb), consistent with levels recently set by the European Commission.

It’s not just the cancer risk that worries the FDA. They are also concerned about studies that show babies exposed to inorganic arsenic, including exposures before they are born, have a higher risk of learning problems.

The infant and toddler rice cereals tested by the FDA had an average arsenic content of 103 ppb. Because that number is an average, it means that some of the cereals were lower — and some were higher. Brown rice has more arsenic than white because arsenic accumulates in the “germ” that is removed from brown rice to make white rice — so cereals and other products made from brown rice are particularly likely to be high in arsenic.

It’s not that we need to cut all rice and rice products out of our diet (although the CPSC report did suggest that children not drink rice milk). But we do need to think a bit differently about rice than we did before, especially with young children and pregnant women.

Here is what the FDA and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggest:

  • While iron-fortified cereals are still a recommended first food for babies at around 6 months of age (babies only need breast milk or formula until 4 to 6 months), rice cereal isn’t the only choice and doesn’t need to be the first choice. Oat, barley, and mixed-grain cereals can provide iron too.
  • It’s a good idea for toddlers to eat varied grains as well, not just rice — and for parents to be mindful of the rice (or rice syrup) toddlers may consume in “puffs” and other snacks marketed for them.
  • Pregnant women should be sure to vary their diet and eat other grains besides just rice.
  • To decrease the amount of arsenic in rice, cook it as you would cook pasta: cook rice in 6-10 parts of water to one part rice, and drain off the excess water. You may reduce some of the nutrient content, but cooking it this way can also decrease the arsenic content by 40% to 60%.

To learn more about why the FDA is taking this step, including links to studies and their testing data, check out their “Arsenic in Rice and Rice Products” page — and for tips from the AAP on how to reduce arsenic in your baby’s diet, check out healthychildren.org.

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Baby Rice Cereal - 4 Reasons Why It's Unhealthy

Browsing the baby aisle in your local supermarket, you’ll see an overwhelming array of products… including baby rice cereal.

Baby food products are one of the many overwhelming choices parents need to make.

Many of them claim to be the best, most nutritious, healthy, and so on.

Of course, that’s what every parent wants for their child.

Parents want to hear that we’re buying our baby the best, most nutritious foods, packed with vitamins and minerals.

Manufacturers label their packets of baby rice cereal as being suitable for babies from four months of age – a first food.

Parents might believe they’re making a natural, healthy choice for their baby.

Especially if your mother is encouraging you to start your baby on the very foods she started her babies with too.

4 reasons to avoid baby rice cereal

Before you add rice cereal into your trolley, here are four reasons to skip the customary baby rice cereal.

#1: Breastmilk and formula are more iron rich

Breast milk or formula will give your baby all the iron he or she needs for the first six months.

When you start solids at around six months, baby will need iron-rich foods, as well as breastmilk or formula.

Accredited Practicing Dietitian and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), Joy Anderson explains:

“Once babies are developmentally ready for solids, there is no need for either bland food, nor purees. Breastmilk, and indeed modern formulas, have all the nutrients a baby needs until about 6 months of age. After then, the main nutrients of concern needing supplementation are iron and zinc. Especially iron. Meat offers these nutrients in more absorbable form. So there’s no need for artificially fortified rice cereal.

Gradually, babies will need more calories (energy) than breastmilk can provide. After around 9-12 months, they need even more nutrients. These can be obtained from the five food groups of a normal diet. However, until around 12 months of age, the quantities of solid foods needed are very small. Parents should take care not to give too much. In doing so, they will replace the baby’s milk intake too quickly.”

Remember, food before one is just for fun.

Milk (breastmilk and/or formula) is the main food for a baby until 12 months.

When you start solids, the foods you choose to give to your baby should ideally be a natural source of iron.

Iron fortified cereal is a source of iron for babies – but not necessarily the best one.

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#2: Fresh is always best

Before refrigeration became affordable and accessible in the mid-20th century, dehydrated and canned foods were very popular.

Baby foods, including ready-made baby cereal, fruits and vegetables, were advertised as convenience items by the 1920s.

Young women were experiencing more freedom after the First World War, and saving time in the kitchen was appealing.

Marketing also tapped into the growing interest in science by promoting their products as better than home-made options.

Your home probably has a fridge and freezer.

Nearby shops and markets offer a variety of fresh, unprocessed foods.

Convenience foods are a handy back-up, but they are expensive and not meant for every day.

Processed foods are also usually nutritionally deficient and full of preservatives.

Most supermarkets have a shelf life requirement of around 6 weeks for such products, in order to even stock them.

#3: Your baby isn’t actually ready to eat rice cereal yet

Parents need to modify foods, in order to give them to babies before they are developmentally ready.

In the first six months, your baby has a tongue-thrust reflex that protects him from swallowing anything other than liquids.

When you make foods more liquid by pureeing, mashing or adding liquid, you are tricking the body into letting them past.

Your baby will swallow these foods, even if they aren’t ready for them.

Baby rice cereal was invented during a time when parents would start introducing solids as early as 6-12 weeks!

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend the introduction of solids at around six months.

Developmentally, a baby can sit up, hold food and bring it to his mouth.

He uses his tongue and jaw to move it in his mouth and safely swallow as he eats.

You can skip the purees and liquid foods, sharing your family meals instead.

#4: Rice cereal is not a healthy choice

Planning to feed your baby a healthy diet right from the start?

Leaving baby rice cereal on the shelf will be a big help.

Does baby rice cereal have arsenic?

Levels of arsenic in rice products are a concern.

Recently, leading organisations have advised parents to avoid feeding babies rice (including baby rice cereal) for this reason.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Rice contains a high amount of arsenic. A natural element, arsenic is found in water, air and soil. It is linked to skin, lung, liver, kidney and bladder cancer. Arsenic exposure also may cause problems during pregnancy and developmental problems at birth.”

Baby rice cereal and your baby’s blood sugar levels

There’s also growing evidence that our diet in infancy and early childhood can influence our health in the future.

Our immune system is mostly in our gut.

What we put in it has big repercussions for our health and wellbeing.

Not only that, but more health experts are finally realising the massive impact of sugars and grains in our diet.

Both sugars and grains are a major cause of inflammation and disease.

Endocrinologist and Obesity Australia Chief Professor, John Funder, says:

“Starting a child off on a diet of rice cereal was like giving them “an oral glucose tolerance test”.

The early years are important for helping children develop healthy eating habits for life – both good and bad.

Breastfed babies are exposed to the tastes and flavours of the foods their mothers eat.

They readily accept a wide range of healthy foods when they move to other foods.

So there is no need to provide bland, tasteless foods.

Find out more about introducing solids, including best first foods and when to give them.

Recommended Reading: Heinz Being Sued Over ‘Healthy’ Toddler Snack Containing Over 60% Sugar.

Is rice porridge for babies a good option?

More and more parents are concerned offer your children a healthy diet , with excellent quality products (which does not mean they are the most expensive or the best brands). For this reason, when the baby is 6 months old and it is time to start complementary foods, it is also time to ask yourself what foods the baby should eat, but above all, what foods he should NOT eat.

One of the first foods to include in your baby's diet, after a period of exclusive breastfeeding - cereals . There are countless options for baby cereals on the market for almost every taste and price. The problem is that these drugs contain an exorbitant amount of sugars that are completely unnecessary and harmful to the child.

One can apparently find very good quality cereal preparations, although yes, at inflated prices and completely unjustified given the type of product. Since cooking at home will always be much cheaper and healthier, Why not prepare some cereal yourself for your child?

You choose the best product at a much lower price You will also avoid the use of sugar and other substances that are used in the production of these products. But do you know which cereal is best for your baby?


  • 1 Rice porridge for babies
  • 2 Homemade cereal porridge

Rice porridge for babies

Rice is a gluten-free cereal, so is recommended for babies from the beginning of the introduction of food . The "problem" is that this cereal contains a substance called "inorganic arsenic", which is naturally present in the soil. This substance can cause serious health problems if consumed in large amounts.

The fact is that, being naturally present in the soil, it is also present in other cereals and in most products that come from the earth . This substance, mixed with pesticides and other chemical products, can be very harmful to health and therefore we must take extra care with them.

To avoid risks, is the best way to ensure that your baby's diet is varied and balanced. , since from the sixth month of life he can eat almost everything. In this way, you will avoid overloading the child's body with substances and nutrients that, in excess, may be inappropriate. Therefore, alternate rice porridges with others made with oats or wheat, as these porridges do not contain the same amount of organic arsenic.

Homemade cereal porridge

By choosing foods that are as natural as possible, p you can prevent your baby from ingesting hazardous substances . In addition, a home remedy is much healthier, cheaper and healthier for your baby. Because you will offer, in addition to a healthy diet, also a sensory experience.

Making your own porridge for your baby is very easy, in this article we will teach you how to make it. homemade rice porridge. In addition, we will help you choose the best cereals for your child's cereal, so you can always choose the most healthy and optimal food for your baby . Remember that any porridge and mashed potatoes can be prepared from breast milk for a child. If you have chosen breastfeeding to feed your baby.

Feeding your baby during the first year of his life will lay the foundation for how he will feed in the future. Lay a healthy foundation and help your child develop healthy eating habits . To help you through this important process, we leave you with some tips on how to feed your baby during his first year of life. We also leave this article to you so that you do not make these mistakes of feeding your baby.

And remember, If you have questions, check with your child's pediatrician. to ensure that they grow and develop normally.

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You may be interested

When is it safe to feed a baby rice porridge?

If you ask for advice on when is the best time to start feeding your baby rice porridge, the answers will vary. Some people may suggest feeding the baby rice porridge starting at 6 months, while others may suggest starting at 2 or 3 months.

But just because someone else gives the baby rice porridge early doesn't mean you should do the same. For advice, it is best to contact your pediatrician - he is an authority on the health of your child. In the meantime, here's what other experts recommend.

Updated Guidelines

Create Guidelines Caution: Rice flakes should not be the only solid. Thus, the old practice of starting iron-fortified rice cereal at around 6 months is no longer recommended.

What are the recommendations for starting complementary foods?

For the first few months of life, you will exclusively feed your baby with breast milk or formula. Anything other than breast milk or formula is considered solid food. Therefore, when deciding when it is right to start feeding your baby with rice porridge, you should follow the same recommendations as when switching to solid foods.

Some people argue that rice cereal is an exception to the recommendation, perhaps because of the ability of rice cereal to dissolve (and "thicken") in breast milk or formula when added in small amounts.

However, rice porridge is a solid food. Babies are not ready for solid food until they are about 6 months old.

Signs that your child is ready for rice porridge

Since each child is different, it is important to look for signs that your child is really ready to start eating rice porridge before giving it.

You must refrain from feeding your child solid foods until he can control his neck and head. Your little one will need to stand upright while eating so they can sit on the high chair.

Most importantly, do not give your child rice porridge until he has developed the ability to move solid food from the front to the back of his mouth. This skill usually does not develop until at least 4 months of age. Until then, your baby's tongue will push out any food that enters his mouth.

Another clear sign that your child may be ready for solid foods is when he shows interest in food. If you are eating in their presence, they may try to grab your food or lean into your food with their mouths open (camera ready!).

Is it safe to give rice porridge to a child before it is ready?

For the most part, you should not give your child rice porridge until recommended. While the extrusion reflex—that automatic reflex that causes a baby's tongue to push food forward—may provide some protection before it's ready, offering solid food too early can still pose a risk of choking or aspiration.

Feeding rice porridge or other solid foods too early can also increase the child's risk of obesity.

But when they're done, rice cereal can be a great starter food, among other things.

How to introduce rice porridge for the first time

After several months of only breast milk or formula, some babies have difficulty adjusting to solid foods.

To begin the insertion process, mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of iron-fortified rice porridge with 4 to 6 tablespoons of formula, breast milk, or water. Some people also mix rice cereal with fruit juice. But this is not recommended because fruit juice has no health benefits and is very high in sugar.

Spoon iron-fortified rice porridge to your child. (It's important that babies get enough iron once they start eating solid foods.) But don't be surprised if it takes your baby a couple of feeds to learn to eat this way. You can breastfeed or bottle feed first and then finish with rice porridge.

Doctors used to recommend rice porridge as a "first meal". But we now know that age-appropriate foods can be introduced in any order, and rice cereal should not be the only solid food that can be given for a long time due to arsenic exposure. Food and Drug Administration.

You can introduce other jarred or pureed foods such as fruits and vegetables before or after you introduce cereal. Include other iron-fortified whole grains in your diet besides rice. Variety is the seasoning for life—even for a child!

When introducing a new solid food to your child, do it one at a time. This way you can detect any potential food allergies or sensitivities early on. For example, after you feed your baby peas for the first time, wait 3-5 days before introducing carrots.

Can rice flakes be used to thicken breast milk or formula?

You may have heard of adding rice porridge to the bottle to thicken breast milk or formula. This, however, is not recommended unless your pediatrician allows it.

If your child has episodes of acid reflux, the doctor may recommend this method to thicken milk and prevent spitting up. But this is rare.


Getting your baby on solid foods is an important milestone, but rice porridge should not be introduced too early. This creates several different risks. So wait until your baby is about 6 months old and watch closely for signs that he's ready for solid foods.

Learn more