Q: What is rice cereal? Why does everyone recommend starting it first?

A: Rice cereal is made from finer grains than oats or wheat, which means it's smoother in texture and much easier for babies to eat and digest. Plus, almost no one is sensitive or has allergies to rice, so it's well tolerated by most babies. Doctors recommend spoon-feeding the cereal to your baby with one of those special rubber- or plastic-tipped baby spoons -- not putting it in his bottle. Even though the spoon feeding will be messy and your baby may seem quite skilled with his bottle, his sucking and swallowing actions are still not fully developed. As a result, the thicker rice cereal can easily get sucked into his lungs and cause problems. What's more, studies have shown that babies who drink rice cereal from a bottle have a harder time recognizing when they're full, and tend to overeat and gain too much weight (a bad habit to start at any age).

You won't be giving your baby very much cereal at first, probably around a teaspoon or two (most of a baby's nutrition still comes from breast milk or formula for the first year), so resist the temptation to buy too much rice cereal in bulk (you can only store an open box for about a month, after which the nutritional content starts to decline). About a week after your child starts rice cereal, you can introduce other single grains like oatmeal and barley; just remember to wait a few days between each new food.

Copyright 2009 Meredith Corporation.

Answered by