Friday, June 20, 2014

The Great Controversy: Rice Cereal.

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The Great Controversy: Rice cereal. Should you add it to baby's bottle? 

Don't Google it. Save yourself. I Google'd this great controversy and I read every opinion on every message board and every article from this pediatrician or that one. Just don't do it. It's overwhelming and ridiculous and I am about to save you hours and hours by summarizing the internet.
At eight weeks, I decided to stop breastfeeding after a lovely bout of mastitis (it really does blow. I would rank all time worst illnesses I would wish on people starting with 1. Lyme disease 2. mastitis 3. stomach bug. Yes, it's that bad.) Once the babies were strictly on formula I knew I would be able to keep track of how much they were eating. At 8 weeks, they were eating 3-4 ounces every 2-3 hours. They were still getting up multiple times a night to feed even though they had doubled their birth weights and were getting enough calories during the day. What's a tired momma to do at that point?

Several people had suggested putting Gerber rice cereal in their bottles at night to help keep their tummies full. As usual, before making any decisions, I have this obsessive need to Google (everything!) and use multiple sources to make an informed decision of my own.

Pros and Cons of using rice (or oatmeal) cereal in bottles:

  • It may not have any effect at all. You and your baby may not notice anything. 
  • It may not help them sleep through the night although, in our experience, I believe it did help stretch their feedings. Read: slightly more uninterrupted sleep for a tired mom.
  • Some articles say that you're teaching them unhealthy eating habits for later down the road and they WILL BECOME OBESE because of this. (What?!?)
  • Some refuse because the pediatrician didn't tell you to do it. Fair enough. But I know our pediatrician is very by the book and scripted. It's like talking to a machine. Insert question, receive computerized answer.
  • They could choke/aspirate due to the thickness of the liquid or the size of hole in the nipple allowing milk to get through too quickly. This is the only con that I found but can be avoided using [not so] common sense.
  • It CAN (and in our experience, does) keep their tummies full longer, it really does.
  • It helps them learn different textures, consistencies, and even flavors.
  • Your baby is getting the same nutritional benefits (cereals are fortified) but with fewer feedings and more sleep in between. Think about it this way. The rice cereals are fortified with vitamins, nutrients, iron, etc. If your baby drinks a 4 ounce bottle at bed time and you add a scoop of rice cereal to it, you are adding calories, yes. But you are also extending the amount of time between feedings, which balances it out. 
  • It is one of the treatments/recommendations for babies with reflux. So a minor case is usually treated by adding rice cereal to the bottle (weighing down the milk) to make it stay in the stomach. In essence, this is what the "special" acid reflux formulas are. 

Starting solids, like a boss!
Now, here's the basics to get you started. Yes, your baby could choke or aspirate the mixture but here is where some common sense comes into play. Sit your baby up to feed. You don't eat soup laying flat on your back, so don't try to feed your baby that way. Use an appropriate nipple. This is not the time to become a surgeon and perform a procedure on a nipple you already have. Spring for the next level up in whatever brand you are using. (Yes! Nips come in different levels!) Don't make the mixture too thick. You're not trying to feed solids to your baby yet - you're just trying to thicken the formula a bit. If you would feed it to your baby off a spoon, you've gone too far. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Once your baby can eat solids from a spoon, you can stop adding cereal to the bottles.

We started with the basic Gerber rice cereal and by 13 weeks, the babies had expanded their collection of cereal to include Oatmeal and Banana, Oatmeal with Peach and Apple, and Rice with Banana and Apple. Maybe we'll move on to caviar and stinky cheeses next to expand their palates even further!

The night we started adding cereal to their bottles (just one teaspoon/4-ounce bottle) was the same night that both boys started sleeping a 6 hour stretch. They would then wake up for a night time feeding with another 4-ounce bottle with cereal and then sleep for another 4 hours. You cannot believe how ecstatic I was the first night they slept for 6 hours. Unless you know me personally and my love affair with sleep, then you might have some basic idea.

I am not a pediatrician, just a mom trying to figure out what works best for her family. These are my experiences and I hope that I can help out some new moms trying to figure out the world of babies!

Leave me a comment with your experiences!

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  1. I know! I don't understand how more people don't believe in its magical powers - haha! Thanks for stopping by!

    1. I am glad i read your blog because i got tired of people downing me telling me il be a bad mother if i give my 3 month old cereal in his bottle. Since he was 1 month old hes been spitting up and choking every morning. I dont overfeed him at all. He only drinks 3oz. I sit him up for 20 mins after he eats as well. I dont breastfeed but i pump and bottle feed him. Now yhat hes 3 months i can pump every 6 to 6 1/2 hours at least once a day. (Night would be great) but he wakes up every hour and a half to eat! For a mother that has health issues she needs her sleep!!! I baught gerber brown rice cereal im hoping it works for him. Thank you for this post im praying it works for.his reflux as well as helping us both get some sleep. (My poor man has been sleeping on the couch due to lack of sleep)

  2. I only use a HALF tsp per 5 oz bottle for my three month old and it works wonders. He now takes a bottle every 4 hours rather than every 3 hours. He no longer spits up half his feedings. And he no longer wakes up for his overnight feeding, he typically sleeps for 8+ hours a night.

  3. Wow. That's the smallest amount I've heard of someone using yet... excellent! Rice cereal tends to be one of the first things that doctors turn to when dealing with a baby with reflux so I'm not surprised by your baby experiencing less spit up episodes. Sounds like you have a great little sleeper on your hands!

    1. Thanks so much for the information. I was about to google, but seriously cant believe the negativity and judgement one gets from trying to figure out what to do w/ our own little ones. my little guy has suffered from reflux and not once has the Dr mentioned rice cereal, instead my little guy has been on Zantac since he was 2mths. He was sleeping through the night but the last week he's up every 1.5hrs screaming for his food and debating the rice cereal option, this article has definitley helped! Thanks again!

  4. Thanks :) Someone suggested this to me and my mom did it with me, but of course I googled it and thought maybe it wasn't such a good idea. I think perhaps I will rethink my decision and buy some rice cereal. I can't get anything done with him screaming for food every two hours and I definitely can't get enough sleep to function. Should cereal be added only at night or is during the day okay too?

    1. We only added rice cereal to their bedtime bottle. I found that I was able to keep up okay during the day and didn't need to add it but the possible extra sleep I got at night was worth it. It's perfectly normal for a baby to be screaming for food every 2 hours depending on their age - sometimes I feel like mine even at 10 months still want food (table food!) that often. My best suggestion is to start out with small amounts and see what works for you and baby. :-)

  5. The study everyone points to was done in 1989 and it was hardly a controlled study. This is my 3rd child and I know that at 4 weeks a tablespoon of rice cereal to 4oz of formula does not hurt our baby. She sleeps longer at night and is perfectly fine like my other children who are 10 and 11 and had rice as infants.

    1. What size nipple did you use for this? He's on a size 1 still with the Dr . Brown's bottles and he's 6 weeks old tomorrow.

  6. Great post, thanks for sharing! Of course I came across this through wonderful Google too! FTM here, hi! Daycare says my EBF baby is still hungry between feedings, so I called the pediatrician. They said not to give more than 6oz of breast milk every 3 hours, if that wasn't satisfying her to add 1TBS rice cereal to her 6 oz that's just what I plan to start doing. Of course I didn't realize there were different sized nipples though so I have to run out and grab some of those before we can start.

    Fortunately she's been STTN since about 3.5 months old, I attribute that to sleep training, so it's not to help her sleep more at night....but during the day, hopefully it helps!

  7. Thanks for this! My 5 week old twins are killing me! Every 2 to 3 hrs at night. I turned to Google and almost dismissed the idea of cereal, until I found this! I will be buying some cereal in the morning and trying it tomorrow night! Hope it helps!

  8. Unfortunately, science does not back up your "pros" list. Doctors have very little training on nutrition, and are not taught the mechanics of feeding whilst in medical school. If your baby needs a thickened formula to keep spit-up in check, PLEASE use the formulas manufactured for this reason. I have met MULTIPLE babies who have choked on or aspirated home-thickened bottles, I did not have the pleasure of meeting the one who died of resultant pneumonia.

    Babies, for their BRAIN DEVELOPMENT, NEED to wake up frequently. Just because a baby is awake it does not mean the baby is hungry. Biologically speaking, babies will generally be able to healthfully sleep through the night about the time they learn to crawl (whatever form that takes).

    Children who were fed infant cereal and formula before six months DO tend to be heavier than infants who were breastfed or fed only breastmilk/formula in their first 6 months. This is compounded if the cereal is introduced before 4 months.

    You are so concerned about vitamins and nutrients - please take a step back and realize that the only nutrients the rice cereal is providing comes in the form of vitamins (also present in adequate amounts in infant formula) and carbohydrates. Research shows that excess carbohydrates leads to morbidity and mortality from everything from heart disease and diabetes to complications of obesity. There is NO reason to give your itty bitty baby excessive carbohydrates before 6 months of age. There are plenty of carbohydrates and vitamins in formula.