Starting your baby on solids is usually an exciting thing as it is a new adventure for the both of you. Many mamas choose the common route of starting their baby on baby cereal or baby oatmeal, it's what moms have been doing for years. One of the things that I saw floating around in forums and breastfeeding groups was that many mamas today were starting to nix the cereal and oatmeal. Of course I was left wondering "Why?"
Here is what I found: There is No Nutritional Value to It. Shocking, I know.
Baby cereal and oatmeal have no nutritional value other than the added iron. While oatmeal is better for baby than the cereal, both of them are really not necessary at all. Most babies usually have safe iron levels and if for some reason they do not, there are iron supplements and even plain old vegetables that can do the trick.
Cereals and oatmeal were commonly chosen as a first food because of the fact that it's not usually a food that can cause an allergic reaction and because it is easy for baby to eat. However if you follow recommendations to start your baby on solids after six months of age, the chance of an allergic reaction to most fruits and vegetables is very low.
Babies Can't Digest Grains.
In order to digest grains our bodies have to be able to use an enzyme, amylase, to break down the grains. Babies actually do not make amylase until they are a year old or older. This situation can make grains painful for a baby's belly and leave us scrambling to find what's wrong with baby (and more than likely blaming everything but the grains).
There is an Increased Risk for Diabetes.
Feeding infants cereal has been associated with an increased risk of Type 1 Diabetes and can possibly make them favor processed foods (think about how much your toddler loves bread). White rice and flour turn into sugar when broken down in the body, therefore making it less nutritional. This is because the nutritional value of the grain is stripped away in the manufacturing process. While we want to hand off all of the yummy rolls for baby to nibble on bits and pieces as he gets older, maybe try doing that less.
Other Cultures Don't Do It Either.
Very few cultures choose to do a grain first when introducing solids to their baby.
It Doesn't Help Them Sleep Longer.
Some people believe that starting solids will help their baby sleep better at night. While I do think this one is debatable, I can tell you that solids did not improve sleep at all in our house. In fact, as I work on my training as a certified breastfeeding counselor I have been taught that the idea that solids will help a baby to sleep better is really just an old myth. Formula babies will sometimes sleep better than breastfed babies because breast milk digests quicker than formula, but so far there is really no evidence to back up the idea that solids will help a baby to sleep better. But hey, desperate times call for desperate measures so I totally understand trying anything!
Do what works for you!
These are just a few of things that I have learned about choosing whether or not to do cereals and oatmeal. I started my baby off with butternut squash followed by avocado. We never had a need for the grains and in fact during a time of desperation I picked up at box of infant oatmeal to see if my baby would indeed sleep better. Here's what happened: she slept okay the first night and then the next several nights she had what was a clear belly ache. This was around seven months of age and I quickly realized that it was indeed the oatmeal causing the belly ache (as well as constipation). I think in total my daughter received oatmeal four times.
While I'm not saying you shouldn't do cereal or oatmeal, I am saying that there are reasons not to. Sometimes there are reasons to do it when baby may need to gain weight or has reflux (although there are probably other methods for that as well). I definitely think this is a decision that is just based on your preference and beliefs. While the research shows that the grains are not good for baby, I think there is still quite a bit to learn on the topic. Try reading up on it and asking your pediatrician about it. If your baby has healthy iron levels, I say go for the veggies!
What are your thoughts on infant cereal and oatmeal?
Thanks for reading, Sasha