Should I Put Baby Cereal in a Bottle?

You might have heard that serving baby cereal in a bottle promotes sleep, but this practice actually does more harm than good. Here's what parents need to know.

This Photo of Cereal in a Baby Bottle Set Off a Fiery Facebook Fight_still

Most experts recommend starting solids around 4-6 months of age—and infant cereals are a great first food. Parents mix these iron-fortified products with breast milk or formula to create a soft, mushy puree that's easy to digest.

But while most moms and dads spoon-feed cereals to their babies, time-crunched folks may wonder if they can pour cereal into a bottle instead. You might have also heard that doing this helps young babies sleep at night.

But as it turns out, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says serving baby cereal in a bottle might do more harm than good. "A baby's digestive system is not thought to be well prepared to process cereal until about 6 months of age. When he is old enough to digest cereal, he should also be ready to eat it from a spoon," says the AAP. Indeed, introducing solids (including baby cereal) before four months of age might lead to food allergies.

Here are some other reasons you avoid serving baby cereal in a bottle:

You Risk Overfeeding: When your baby drinks breast milk or formula, he instinctively knows how much to ingest. When you add cereal into his bottle, he might keep drinking his usual amount—even though the food has much more calories. In turn, he might "overdose" on calories in this situation, according to the AAP. Constant overeating could lead to obesity or an unhealthy relationship with food in the future.

Your Baby Could Choke: Baby cereal is thicker than breast milk and formula. Young babies without the proper swallowing reflex could gag, choke, or aspirate cereal into their lungs. You can help develop this reflex by starting solids at the appropriate time, and gradually introducing your baby to a wide range of textures.

It Doesn't Improve Sleep. Many parents serve baby cereal in a bottle because they heard it helps babies sleep. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there's no validity to this claim.

So what should parents do? Stick with old-fashioned spoon-feeding (or baby-led weaning) when starting solids. Gradually thicken baby cereal by adding less breast milk and formula; the thicker texture helps improve chewing and swallowing. Only put baby cereal in a bottle if it's recommended by your doctor.

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