Cereal in the bottle

Is it OK to add rice cereal to my baby’s bottle?

Adding rice or other cereals to the baby’s bottle is no longer recommended. It can be harmful, and studies show it doesn’t make the baby sleep longer. Cereal is a starch, so it displaces healthier items such as fat and protein. It may increase the risk of choking, illness, and obesity.

A) The history of adding cereal to the baby’s evening bottle

In the recent past, mothers were often told to add rice or other cereal to a bottle of expressed breast milk or infant formula at bedtime as a way of helping the baby to sleep longer. This is no longer recommended (Holt 2011). Nor should it be used to provide extra calories for a baby who is growing slowly

B) Risks of adding cereal to the baby’s bottle

Studies show that adding cereal to a bottle of milk at bedtime does not make a baby sleep longer (Macknin 1989; Murcia 2019). 

Cereal is a type of starch. Adding it to milk (Green Corkins 2016):

  • Displaces healthier items such as fat and protein.
  • Increases the number of calories a baby takes in.
  • Slows the emptying of the stomach and increases the amount of spit-up.

It may also:

  • Increase the risk of choking.
  • Increase the risk of illness by introducing solid foods (cereal) before six months.
  • Pose a risk to babies because of raised levels of arsenic through the use of rice cereal.
  • Increase the risk of obesity (Appleton 2018; Birch 1998).

References

Appleton J, Russell CG, Laws R, et al. Infant formula feeding practices associated with rapid weight gain: A systematic review. Matern Child Nutr. 2018 Apr 14:e12602

Birch LL, Fisher JO. Development of eating behaviors among children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 1998 Mar;101(3 Pt 2):539-49. PMID: 12224660
 
Green Corkins K, Shurley T. What's in the Bottle? A Review of Infant Formulas. Nutr Clin Pract. 2016 Dec;31(6):723-729
 
Holt K, Wooldridge N, Story M, et al., editors. Bright Futures: Nutrition Supervision 3rd Edition.United States of America: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2011.

Macknin ML, Medendorp SV, Maier MC. Infant sleep and bedtime cereal. Am J Dis Child. 1989 Sep;143(9):1066-8

Murcia L, Reynaud E, Messayke S, et al. Infant feeding practices and sleep development in pre-schoolers from the EDEN mother-child cohort. J Sleep Res. 2019;28(6):e12859