What is baby rice?
Baby rice is normal rice, ground to a very fine consistency, like flour. It often comes with added vitamins, such as:
- zinc – which helps strengthen the immune system
- iron – needed for healthy blood
- thiamin – which helps the body release energy from food.
Why should you use it?
Baby rice is often hailed as the perfect first food for weaning babies. The main reason is that it’s easily digested, even by tiny tummies, and hypoallergenic, so there’s next to no chance of your baby reacting badly to it.
Baby rice is suitable for vegetarian and vegan babies, and is free from gluten, cow’s milk, egg and soya: some of the most common trigger foods for allergies.
As well as being gentle on your baby’s immature digestive system, baby rice is bland in flavour, meaning he’s unlikely to object to the taste, and is smooth and runny, so he shouldn’t gag or have difficulty chewing or swallowing it.
How and when should your baby have baby rice?
The Department of Health’s official guidelines recommend waiting until six months before starting to wean your baby, but some babies are ready sooner, and recent research has suggested that introducing solids before six months may in fact make it less likely that your baby will suffer from allergies or iron deficiency anaemia.
Baby rice can be introduced from four months (17 weeks) if you feel your baby is ready for solids, but he shouldn’t have anything other than milk before this point.
Baby rice comes as a dry powder that you mix with your baby’s usual milk – either formula or expressed breastmilk – to the required consistency. It can be served warm or cold. To start with, your baby is only likely to want a teaspoonful or so, but you can increase the quantity he has if he seems to want more.
Usually, mums only give pure baby rice for the first two or three days of weaning, while their babies get used to taking food from a spoon.
Once your baby is getting the hang of it, you’ll want to move on swiftly to offering fruit and vegetable purees; in fact, you may prefer to skip the baby rice stage and start with purees straight away.
However, even when your baby has moved on from baby rice, you can use it to add bulk to pureed fruit and veg.
Your older relatives may well tell you that in their day, babies were given baby rice in their bottle to help them sleep. There is no evidence supporting this belief, and it’s very dangerous to feed your little one baby rice or any other solid food from a bottle, as he may choke or inhale the food.
Why shouldn’t you give baby rice too often?
A recent study found that a number of brands of baby rice, and some baby cereals made with baby rice, contained potentially harmful toxins such as arsenic, linked with cancer, and cadmium, a metal that can cause kidney damage. These toxins enter the product through contaminated water used to irrigate rice crops in certain countries.
The researchers found that feeding babies with baby rice-based products twice a day increased their exposure to arsenic by 50 times, compared to breastfeeding alone.
While these chemicals don’t exceed official safety limits, scientists are concerned about their possible impact on young babies, and are calling for stricter regulations.
The small amounts of baby rice that you give to your baby when you’re first weaning are unlikely to cause long-term health problems, but it’s best to avoid giving foods based on baby rice more than once a day, and to move on from baby rice to other foods early in the weaning process.