Rice baby cereal is a type of baby food parents commonly rely on as they begin introducing solids into their baby's diet. The sensitive, developing digestive system of an infant is less likely to have a problem with rice cereal in comparison to cereals made from other grains, but some question remains as to whether or not rice baby cereal made from white rice has enough nutritional value. Commercially sold rice cereal is either made from white or brown rice and is often fortified with additional nutrients. Alternatively, parents can make their own homemade rice cereal but should exercise caution when doing so.
Very few individuals are allergic to rice, which means that the vast majority of babies are able to tolerate rice baby cereal. The texture of commercially purchased rice cereal is also much smoother than the texture of cereals made from wheat or oats. As a result, many babies have an easier time swallowing and digesting rice cereal.
From a nutritional standpoint, cereal made from white rice is especially problematic since white rice is high in calories and starch but low in overall vitamins and minerals. Many baby food manufacturers add iron and other vitamins to the cereal in order to improve its nutritional value, but even fortified white rice baby cereal provides less overall nutrition than cereal made from brown rice. Baby cereal made from brown rice naturally contains proteins, essential fats, and minerals. Many manufacturers fortify brown rice cereal with additional vitamins and minerals, as well.
Parents who prefer making their own baby food can easily and safely make rice baby cereal at home. Short-grain brown rice typically works best. The rice must be thoroughly ground into powder using a blender or food processor, and roughly 1/4 cup (approximately 2 ounces or 57 grams) of this powder should be mixed into every 1 cup (approximately 8 ounces or 237 milliliters) of boiling water. This mixture should simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, and parents should allow the cereal to cool to room temperature before feeding it to their baby to avoid burns. Homemade rice cereal can be kept in the refrigerator up to 3 days or frozen and kept for several weeks, but it must be disposed of after this time period elapses in order to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
Unless otherwise instructed by a pediatrician, parents should always feed the cereal to their baby with a spoon instead of putting it into a bottle. A baby's ability to swallow is not fully developed yet, and even though rice cereal is easier to swallow than many other cereals, feeding it to an infant via bottle could still cause the child to accidentally suck the cereal into his or her lungs. Feeding rice baby cereal to a baby via bottle could also cause the child to overeat and take in more calories than he or she needs, establishing an early trend toward obesity.