Until a few years ago, baby rice or rice cereal was the food of choice for a baby’s first food. The reason was that there was train of thought that proposed reducing the risk of allergies by ‘later’ introduction of solids and sticking to very simple foods with low allergy risk such as processed rice cereal.
Things have changed, research is showing that introducing a food type much later (after 7 months) poses a greater risk for allergies and that introduction of foods between 17 and 24 weeks does not increase the risk of allergies to that food at all. In fact, early exposure to foods (even through the placenta and breast milk) may be protective against allergies. So we are no longer avoiding variety and allergens.
To add to this argument, we are also finding that exposure to a variety of flavours and foods before 7-8 months, decreases the risk of fussy eating in the toddler years and so we prefer stronger and more varied tastes than the blandness of rice cereal.
Finally, there is a new trend towards replicating breast milk in first foods, in terms of the composition of carbs vs fats. Breast milk is mostly water with 55% fats, 37% carbs and 8% proteins – Rice cereal is obviously mainly carbs (and processed ones at that) so really a huge shift for your baby’s gut. We are now thinking that first foods should rather be less processed food such as vegetables, fruits and healthy fats such as avocado and nut butters.
It is a huge departure from the past but it is the logical and healthy way to wean your baby. If you are looking for healthy grains to introduce early, rather look towards quinoa, oats and unprocessed rice than rice cereal.