With lots of questions around this topic lately, I will give you my reasons why I chose to not give rice cereal.
The first reason why I chose not to do rice cereal is because it leaves your baby feeling full. To me this is a fake full. I would have rather my daughter ate another serving of vegetables, fruits, or even nursed nonstop than to let her get full with something that has zero nutritional value. It is high in calories but they’re empty calories give a false feeling of fullness.
For example, let’s say you sit down at a restaurant. You get your meal and 2 sides. Say you order chicken tenders and french fries. Obviously this whole meal is fried with lots of grease. Would you chose a salad as your other side and get it before your meal so you could fill up on some nutrition and prevent eating as much junk? I would. I love eating a salad before dinner to help me from overeating and actually squeezing in some good veggies with some added yummy like cheese. But the point is, I just ate lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, etc. versus a really not so healthy meal.
Reason number two I didn’t feed rice to my child is the fact of arsenic levels in rice. In 2014 when she began eating, there was no regulation from the FDA on the amount of arsenic levels in rice. Even though the pediatricians encouraged it as well as the WIC program, I refused and they looked at me like I was crazy! My thoughts were, “she got just as much iron from breastmilk as she would from cereal and I don’t have to expose her to high levels of arsenic.”
Moment of venting: I should have never been encouraged to do anything before 6 months anyways. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding until six months. I, along with other parents, were encouraged at 4 months by a pediatrician. I was also encouraged to do 3 solid feedings a day so that at a year old I could wean. Nope. It didn’t happen. Food was entirely optional and breastfeeding didn’t end until we were both ready at 18 months. And even at 4 months old, the signs weren’t there that she was ready to eat (swallow reflex & doubled birth weight). See here on the signs for if your child is ready to eat. And DON’T EVEN get me started on adding rice cereal to a bottle. THIS IS A CHOKING HAZARD AND CAN CAUSE ASPIRATION. Read the AAP’s article here.
So let’s discuss the trouble with arsenic.
There are two types: inorganic and organic. Organic is less toxic and naturally occurs from the Earth’s crust. Inorganic arsenic is what is released into the soils by using pesticides and fertilizers and is known as a carcinogen. And rice tends to absorb arsenic more so than any other crop. Scary thought of the situation, there is no federal regulation of arsenic levels in a product. But they have recently proposed a limit for infant cereal as of April 1. 2016. Which you can read that here.
Why is arsenic a problem? Well the FDA states “The FDA found that inorganic arsenic exposure in infants and pregnant women can result in a child’s decreased performance on certain developmental tests that measure learning, based on epidemiological evidence about arsenic, including dietary exposures.” (You can visit here to get information on FDA’s take on infant rice cereal and arsenic levels.) And you can view testing records of various rices through consumerreports.org by clicking here.