Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


Baby’s first food

As a dietitian I often field questions from my friends who are starting their babies on solids. The other day I received an email from a friend whose pediatrician suggested that she start her 6-month-old baby on a single-grain iron-fortified baby cereal. She was concerned about a rice cereal she had found and was helpful enough to send me a link to the product details. This Gerber Baby Cereal Rice claims to be “the ideal choice for baby’s first solid food”. One look at the ingredient list told me that this was not the case. My biggest concerns were: 1. the fact that skim milk powder was the second ingredient (the current recommendation for infant feeding is that babies should not be given cow’s milk until at least nine months of age as it can be difficult for them to digest – their digestive systems continue to develop during infancy), 2. Potato maltodextrin? Why does a baby cereal need a sweetener? This is a disturbing addition to me. I’m also not convinced that the additions of the three types of oil are necessary, or beneficial. Ideally, the baby should continue to be breastfed after the introduction of solids and should be obtaining necessary fats from breastmilk.

I also would like to point out a problem with the pediatrician’s advice. Giving baby cereal as a first food is no longer the best practice recommendation. The current recommendation is to start babies off on ANY iron-rich food. Baby cereal is only iron-rich because it’s fortified. Why not start your baby off on something that doesn’t contain added oils, milk, or maltodextrin? You can give your baby meat, poultry, eggs (yes, even the whites!), beans, legumes, tofu…

If you do decide to start with a baby cereal, make sure that you give it a good shake before you prepare it as the iron has a tendency to sink to the bottom of the box. Also, please read the labels. If you’re not sure about a product, do what my friend did and ask a dietitian. Try to choose a product that is a single grain that’s fortified but that doesn’t have loads of unnecessary added ingredients.