Only about half of babies eat this classic mush, even though pediatricians say it’s an ideal first food. Here are three great reasons to dish it up.
1. It’s the #1 Food Source of Iron.
When your pediatrician gives you the okay to introduce solids to your baby, usually at about 6 months, it’s time to look for iron-rich foods. Iron is a nutrient critical for healthy brain development, says Erin Quann, Ph.D., R.D., director of nutrition research at Gerber. Iron is especially important for breastfed babies since breast milk contains very little. Just two 1/4-cup servings of iron-fortified infant cereal (oatmeal, rice, barley, or mixed grains) deliver most of your baby’s daily iron needs.
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2. It’s a Teaching Tool.
Infant cereal is soft and mushy, but you can gradually make it thicker by adding less liquid (breast milk or formula). The familiar flavor pretty much guarantees eager eating, while the thicker textures help your baby learn how to chew and swallow.
3. It's Safe.
A recent study found that infant rice cereals contain an average of six times the level of arsenic as other grain cereals. It’s still okay to serve them in moderation because they’ve passed FDA safety requirements, says Frank Greer, M.D., professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. But if you’re concerned, skip infant rice cereal: Other infant cereals—like oatmeal, barley, and mixed grains—deliver the same iron-rich benefits.