Are you starting to get ready to give your baby solid food? Maybe you are doing some research or maybe you have people giving you advice on the best way to do it.
It is a really exciting time for you, and hopefully your baby, but also parents can feel a lot of pressure to really get things right. When you start looking at products in the shops you will find food labelled from 4 month, some from 6 months and some from 12 months.
So the natural thing is to think you start your baby on the 4 month food around 4 months and move on around 6 months to the next stage. I have much more to say about this in another blog as this one is to focus on baby rice!
Baby rice is often considered a great first food – firstly it is labelled in that 4 month category which helps persuade parents it is a good starting point. Secondly it is a thin consistency, bland looking and simple to prepare and use. If you wanted to start food with something that looks and feels just like milk then baby rice would be your go to. After you all you just mix it with your baby’s milk and it thickens it up a bit.
When we introduce food to a baby what are we doing it for?
Well the reasons are many. There are nutritional reasons to be giving babies food but at the start they are still getting all their nutrients and calories from milk, food won’t take over for a few months for most babies. But food is also great for learning more about textures and tastes and how to chew and swallow, what foods look and taste like and how to pick up and take food to the mouth, how to hold things of different shapes, sizes and textures. There is so much to explore in food that baby rice will certainly not offer.
And if we go back to the nutritional side – what does baby rice offer? It does offer some nutrients. Doing some reading I have found various sources that talk about carbohydrate, protein, fibre and B vitamins in baby rice/cereal. Additionally, many of these products will be fortified with more vitamins and particularly iron.
But babies who are starting their food journey at around 6 months, showing all the signs of readiness don’t need to have baby rice to get these nutrients. They can start with exploring other foods and get all the goodness from those whilst having lots of fun learning valuable skills with textures and hand to mouth co-ordination.
Of course they might not get so much in their mouths to start with and families may opt for purees or mashed foods to ensure they are eating something, but finger foods should be offered as well so that babies are used to the different tastes, shapes and colours of the food they eat as well as learning how to bite, chew and swallow.
If you do use fortified foods initially then when you stop them you want your baby to still be able to get all those nutrients from their food so it is important they can eat a good range of foods and can get all the nutrients from their diet. So while baby rice might seem good initially we are thinking about the long term nutrition as well.
There are also some concerns that baby rice can have high levels of arsenic and other heavy metals. Rice is fine in moderation but if you are using it as your baby’s food for all meals then there could be risks associated with it.
So whilst rice can seem like an easy start off as a slightly thicker than milk consistency, it really isn’t a necessary part of the food journey and skipping it will not be a bad thing for your baby at all. In fact there are plenty of people out there who recommend skipping it all together because there is no need and no real benefits to having it.
If you do decide to use baby rice or cereals then please mix them in a pot or bowl and feed to baby that way rather than adding to the milk in their bottle which can be a choking risk. And remember the guidance for starting any form of food is around 6 months unless you are advised differently by a paediatrician.
If you are preparing for solid foods come and join a workshop! If dates don't work for you message me about a private session for you or a group of friends. https://www.bethowen.uk/starting-solids-workshop