Best Baby Cereals: 6 Healthy Options for Your Little Eater
After months of an all-liquid diet, baby is ready for a taste of solid food. To help make this exciting milestone go smoothly, you may decide to reach for baby cereal first—lots of parents do. With its plain flavor and adaptable consistency, baby cereal is the ultimate chameleon. It not only helps your little one adjust to the texture of solids, it can also be blended with new foods to help make them more palatable. It essentially acts as a bridge between liquid and solid—so this mealtime MVP probably won’t be in your pantry for the long haul. Still, there are some things to know before baby takes that first spoonful. For starters, when do babies start eating cereal—are there any dangers to be aware of? Ready for the full lowdown? Get the scoop on cereal for babies, including important safety information. Then, check out some baby cereals that deserve a spot on your kitchen shelf.
Baby cereal is typically made of grains—think oats, rice, barley or quinoa—that are ground so fine, they turn into a smooth puree when mixed with breast milk, formula or water. This silky consistency is easy for babies to eat and digest. The whole purpose of baby cereal is to prepare baby for bigger and better things, explains Praveen Goday, MBBS, director of nutrition at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
Baby cereals also pose a low allergy risk, so chances are your little eater can enjoy their meal without any worrisome side effects. Another benefit: Baby cereals are a good source of some vitamins and minerals, including iron, which is necessary for growth and development. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that baby get extra iron around 4 to 6 months of age, when their natural stores of the mineral become depleted.
You can start introducing solid foods, including baby cereals, around 4 to 6 months of age. If baby is younger than 4 months, stick to breast milk or formula, advises Goday. As with most milestones, baby will let you know when they’re ready to make the big move. Goday shares some signs to look for:
- Sits up in a high chair, feeding seat or infant seat with good head control
- Shows interest in food; for example, they intently watch you eat
- Seems hungry between regular feedings
- Opens their mouth when food is offered
- Swallows food from a spoon instead of pushing it out of their mouth
What is the best baby cereal to start with?
When you’re first serving up baby cereal, it’s a good idea to choose a single-grain, iron-fortified variety, says Goday. To help those first spoonfuls go down easier, he recommends mixing the cereal with breast milk or formula—whatever baby is already drinking. And hold off adding sugars or salt—plain and simple is best at this point.
The AAP recommends waiting three to five days before introducing a new single-ingredient food or cereal. This window of time lets you see if baby has any issues with that ingredient. Signs of a food allergy or allergic reaction include rash, bloating, diarrhea, vomiting, wheezing, hives and difficulty breathing, notes Goday.
Baby food made headlines in 2021, but for all the wrong reasons. The government released a report of its investigation into high levels of arsenic, lead and other heavy metals in baby foods, particularly those made with rice. Rice tends to soak up more arsenic than other crops, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and exposure to the heavy metal can be harmful for little bodies.
That said, you don’t need to bypass baby rice cereal altogether. Just make sure it’s one of a wide variety of grains and foods your baby eats, as that will help lower your baby’s exposure to the bad stuff, notes the AAP.
Can you put cereal in baby’s bottle?
Short answer: No. Adding cereal to your baby’s bottle presents a variety of potential risks, according to the AAP. In certain specific medical situations, your pediatrician may recommend putting infant cereal in a bottle; but, otherwise, plan on serving baby cereal at the appropriate time with a spoon, Goday says.
Ready to stock up on cereal for babies? You have no shortage of choices. To help narrow down your options, zero in on ones that are specifically made for babies, contain whole grains and are fortified with iron. Here are six baby cereal options worth considering.
It’s easy to see why Gerber’s organic single-grain oatmeal baby cereal is a reliable go-to for parents. Made of highly ground whole grain oats, it provides the simplicity beginner eaters need while also packing a nutritious punch. Each serving offers your baby iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin C and six B vitamins.
If you prefer to start your kiddo on an organic baby cereal, consider this one from Earth’s Best. It contains organic whole grain oats and an assortment of vitamins and minerals—think iron, zinc, vitamin E and B vitamins. What’s more, the ingredients are grown free of potentially harmful pesticides, so you can feel good about what you’re serving.
Want to round out your little one’s diet with a baby rice cereal? Look no further than this offering from Earth’s Best. It’s made of USDA-certified organic rice grains and comes fortified with iron for baby’s growth and development. Of course, parents may be just as interested in what the cereal doesn’t contain. There are no genetically engineered ingredients, no artificial colors, no flavors and no preservatives in this rice cereal for baby.
Always start your day with oatmeal? Now your little eater can enjoy a hearty bowl of their own too. Made of organic whole grain oats, this baby oatmeal cereal from Beech-Nut mixes easily into a mild-tasting, easy-to-digest puree while also delivering important vitamins and minerals, including iron, zinc, calcium and vitamin D.
Simple is best when it comes to cereal for babies, and this single-grain offering from Gerber does not disappoint. Made of finely ground non-GMO rice, it’s a cinch to prepare—just add breast milk, formula or distilled baby water and serve. Two servings provide your baby with 90 percent of their daily value of iron, plus vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, calcium and six B vitamins.
Once your kiddo has had a chance to try a single grain cereal, try adding a multigrain variety to the menu. One to check out: Earth’s Best, which is made from a blend of organic whole grain oats, barley and spelt. In addition to being nourishing, this baby cereal is also healthy, as each serving contains iron, zinc and B vitamins.
About the expert:
Praveen Goday, MBBS, is the director of nutrition at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. He is also a professor at the Ohio State University. He earned his bachelor of medicine, bachelor of surgery degree at Madras Medical College in Chennai, India.