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When can I start giving my infant cereal?

If they have a steady head and are interested in your food, then it might be time to try purees!

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, cereal and other foods should be introduced between 4 and 6 months of life. In reality, this decision has much to do with the development of your child and little to do with an age marker. Look for the clues your baby is ready to eat off a spoon. When the rest of the family is eating, does your baby look interested? Some babies will gaze longingly at your plate and even drool! When your baby is sitting on your lap or in a supportive chair, such as a Bumbo, is he able to hold his head steady without looking like a little bobble doll? A baby cannot eat from a spoon if he cannot keep a steady head!

Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, August 2019

Comments

  1. We started at 4 months per pedi recommendation

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  2. Why have pediatricians been saying that solids are okay at 4 months? I feel like babies don’t have the best head control yet.

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    1. I am not sure why that old recommendation is still circulating. The standard now (2015) is to wait until 6 months to start complimentary foods. However, each individual child is different, so it may be that some children are ready earlier. There are fairly clear signs that your child is ready or not: http://www.bundoo.com/articles/8-rules-for-starting-your-baby-on-solids/

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  3. This is good information as my daughter is 4.5 mo old and getting ready for solids per her dr

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  4. It kind of annoys me that this about only cereal and then mentions nothing about gut health. It isn’t just a decision made on development. My child’s head was steady at 2 months and she was sitting a Bumbo at 3m. That doesn’t mean she was ready for food, let alone basically pure sugar and constipation in a box. Her gut wasn’t ready. Studies have proven (which is why the AAP recommends it) that no solids should be introduced before 6 months to lower the risk for celiac disease. Their little guts haven’t properly matured until then. I think to say that they recommend it then not explain why is misleading. Then to seem to push it and not mention food before 1 is just for fun makes a pretty biased article more opinionated article than an a factual one.

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    1. Or to mention that cereal is nothing but refined flour. Turning it into spoonfuls of sugar. It does not matter how much they fortify an oatmeal cream pie with vitamins it is still an unhealthy sugary oatmeal cream pie.

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    2. Kaela,
      You bring up a lot of issues here, which I will try to address. The link between the development of celiac disease and early introduction of cereal/solids is not well-defined and still under investigation. The AAP recs are not targeting prevention of celiac disease–they are targeting readiness, prevention of choking, food allergy, and meeting an infant’s overall nutritional needs in a healthy way. They note other fortified grains and meat as great first foods.

      Until recently, it was thought that introducing cereal or a source of gluten between 5 and 6 months was optimal in preventing celiac; now there is emerging evidence that holding off until later may be better, particularly for those infants at high risk for celiac (genetically-inclined). The long and short: we still don’t have enough evidence to make a recommendation.

      Your comment, “pure sugar and constipation in a box” certainly alarms, but misses the point of the purpose of cereal. As a grain and carbohydrate, it is a complex source of carbs, and will be broken down by the body into glucose, the simplest form of “sugar” the body requires for cell and brain energy. Many foods break down to glucose, or “sugar” as a result of digestion: fruit, vegetables, milk/dairy, and all sorts of carbs like beans, bread and potato.

      Constipation is a function of gut maturity, health, and genetics–not every baby who eats cereal will experience constipation.

      I agree that 6 months is the gold standard, but there is evidence that offers some wiggle room to those infants who are ready earlier. Nothing before 4 months, though!

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  5. We started cereal around 5 months with my daughter because she seemed very interested in what we were eating! She took it up really well, until we introduced fruits!! She hated them until she was about 8 months old!

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    1. I always find it interesting to see what babies like and do not like. My own son wouldn’t eat a thing until eight months but is now a really easy eater (years later).

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  6. Thanks for the info, wasn’t sure if I wanted to start with cereal or veggies/fruit. Might integrate both.

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  7. This hasn’t changed sine I had babies 36 years ago Rosanne

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    1. It may seem that way, but we know a lot more now than we did then!! But nothing trumps common sense, Rosanne. 🙂

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  8. Can’t wait till i can see my little one exploring food! Just a couple more months 🙂

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    1. It’s a total blast! Enjoy it!!

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  9. I’m a new mommy and was told I could introduce some rice cereal into my sons bottle but I have NO idea what to do. Can someone tell me which brand or kind and a little instructions? I would appreciate it! Thanks!

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  10. I never understood giving cereal. To me it is empty calories and sugar when you could be giving your child fruits and vegetables with all the vital nutrients they need.

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    1. I agree, Miriam. There is no point to rice cereal unless under very specific medical circumstances.

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  11. My daughter started eating cereal around 5 months. I was told not to give it to her in a bottle, but to spoon feed it to her…

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    1. I think that is great advice. Spoon feeding is just as much about infant development as it is about nutrition.

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  12. I started to feed my first rice cereal in a bottle with a split nipple by the time he was one month old under the advice of my pediatrician. My son was drinking so much formula he would projectile vomit it across the room. Once I fed him the cereal, he was happy!!

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    1. I guess he proves the old saying that “there is an exception to every rule”! Sorry about all that laundry.

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  13. I started both of my girls with cereal at 4 months of age but I know I could have waited until six months. For the first month or so the cereal is so thinned out that most of it just came right back out and onto the bib. I think I was more excited just to start feeding them in hopes that they would start sleeping through the night!

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  14. We didn’t start any solids until right around 6 months, but I heard that cereal in a bottle also helps with reflux issues. Is there anything to back that statement up?

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    1. This should only be done with medical supervision, as overfeeding is a real risk, as well as food allergy development if done before 4 months of age.

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  15. I remember being told giving cereal would ensure more sleep for the little one. Is there any truth to that? Anyone know? Just curious.

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    1. I wish! Unfortunately, that common piece of wisdom turns out to be false.

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    2. Yes, false. And it also may set baby up for overeating and increase risk of food allergies if offered before 4 months.

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      1. So babies definetly shouldn’t be eating foods before 4 months? Also why or how does it risk increase food allergies?

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        1. That’s correct. There is no need for solid foods before 4 months of age unless instructed by the child’s medical doctor. The thought behind the food allergies is that before six months the gut is too immature to handle some foods and the immune system responds by creating an allergy to the food.

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