Can I Add Cereal To My Baby’s Bottle?

Posted on Jul 19 2016 - 7:01am by Christine
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We received a message today from Liz in Illinois, who asked

My daughter is 7 weeks old and wakes every 2-3 hours to be fed during the night. My mother suggested putting cereal into the last bottle of milk my baby has each day, to fill up her tummy and help her sleep for longer. Is this safe?

This advice is often given to parents by baby’s grandparents, because adding rice cereal to milk bottles was common practice when they were raising their babies. And it seems logical – your baby is waking to feed frequently, so feed him something more substantial than milk and he will wake less often.

But thickening babies’ milk with cereal is not recommended – except in special circumstances, if baby is suffering from infant reflux, for example – and only on the advice of a pediatrician.

Can I Add Cereal To My Baby's BottleWhy is it unsafe to add cereal to your baby’s milk?

  • Introducing ANYTHING other than breast milk or formula to your baby before 6 months of age can lead to food allergy.
  • At such a young age, your baby’s sucking and swallowing skills are not fully developed. This means that he may inhale the cereal into his lungs.
  • His immature digestive system may struggle to cope with rice cereal, leading to discomfort. And if your baby is experiencing digestive discomfort, then he is likely to cry more… and wake MORE often at night!
  • Thickening your baby’s milk with cereal can cause obesity and lifelong weight problems.

How can milk thickened with cereal cause obesity ?

Well, your baby has a natural ability to gauge how much food he actually needs (you can read more about this here: How much should my baby be eating?). When he is only consuming milk, he can tell when he is satisfied by the quantity that he drinks.

When you add cereal to the milk, you are adding calories – and “tricking” your baby into taking in more calories than he really needs.

Not only can this cause immediate problems with excess weight, it can cause your baby to struggle with his weight throughout his life. This is because his ability to tell when he has had enough to eat will be damaged.

It can be difficult to explain your refusal to thicken your baby’s milk to well meaning grandparents who didn’t encounter any problems when THEY did it.

So gently point out that rates of obesity are at an all-time high… and rising – and that perhaps this outdated practice is the cause.

Alternatively, try to avoid discussing your baby’s sleep issues with relatives who are likely to offer this advice as a solution.

And remember – the broken nights won’t last forever… for the first few months, your baby needs small, frequent feeds. By accommodating this basic need, you are doing the very best for your baby.

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