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Best Baby Cereals: Healthy Options for Your Little Eater

Ready to start solids? Here’s what to know before feeding baby their first spoonful.
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Updated December 18, 2023
Best Baby Cereals: Healthy Options for Your Little Eater-hero
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In a nutshell: Based on expert advice and the author’s personal experience, we chose Gerber Organic Single Grain Oatmeal Baby Cereal as the overall best baby cereal, based on its nutritional value and ease of preparation and storage.

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. “Baby cereals are great,” says Robert Hamilton, MD, a board-certified pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “They provide a very palpable food source for young babies. You go from there.”

Baby cereal 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? Check out some baby cereals that deserve a spot on your kitchen shelf, and get the scoop on important safety information.

How We Chose the Best Baby Cereals

Baby cereals are often your little one’s first introduction to foods, as well as a way to bulk up additional things they’re eating, making this an important selection. To help you choose wisely:

  • We consulted with two pediatricians and a pediatric nutrition expert for their input on ingredients to look for in these foods. In keeping with their advice, we only considered iron-fortified cereals and excluded rice cereals from our choices.
  • We looked at the most popular baby cereals on the market and narrowed our selections based on ingredients, included vitamins and minerals, convenience and value.
  • We considered reviews from real families to make sure we had the best sense of how well parents—and babies, of course—enjoyed these cereals. Only baby cereals with an average review of four or more stars were included in the final list.
  • Since many of us are parents ourselves, we relied on our experiences feeding our own children.

Editorial integrity is at the heart of everything we publish. Read about how The Bump develops and reviews all articles, including product reviews.

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Best Baby Cereals to Shop

Overall best baby cereal

Gerber Organic Single Grain Oatmeal Baby Cereal
Image: Amazon
What We Love
  • Made of oatmeal
  • Easy-pour top
  • Mixes well
Things To Consider
  • Some say instructions aren’t specific enough

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. My youngest daughter started on this, and I was impressed at the pour spout and secure snap on the lid to keep the cereal fresh. It also mixed well and didn’t create lumps.

Net weight: 8 oz. | Primary grains: Oatmeal | Major vitamins and minerals: Iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and vitamin C

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Best organic baby cereal

Earth’s Best Organic Whole Grain Baby Oatmeal Cereal
Image: Walmart
What We Love
  • Organic
  • Non-GMO ingredients
  • Gentle on most baby’s stomachs
Things To Consider
  • Side pour spout can be messy

If you want to start your kiddo on an organic baby cereal, consider this option 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.

Net weight: 8 oz. | Primary grains: Oatmeal | Major vitamins and minerals: Iron, zinc, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and vitamin E

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Best baby oatmeal cereal

Beech-Nut Stage 1 Organic Oatmeal Cereal
Image: Walmart
What We Love
  • Organic
  • Seals well
  • Container doesn’t hog pantry space
Things To Consider
  • No pouring spout

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.

Net weight: 8 oz. | Primary grains: Oatmeal | Major vitamins and minerals: Iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and vitamin D

Buy Now

Best multigrain baby cereal

Earth’s Best Organic Multi-Grain Infant Cereal
Image: Walmart
What We Love
  • Easy-pour top
  • Mixes well
Things To Consider
  • Some say instructions aren’t specific enough

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 grains. In addition to being nourishing, this baby cereal is also healthy, as each serving contains iron, zinc and B vitamins.

Net weight: 8 oz. | Primary grains: Oats, barley, spelt | Major vitamins and minerals: Iron, zinc, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin E

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Best cereal for older babies

Ready, Set, Food! Organic Baby Oatmeal Cereal
Image: Target
What We Love
  • Oatmeal base
  • Easy to seal
  • Helps introduce allergens early
Things To Consider
  • Not suitable for babies with known food allergies
  • Not promised to prevent allergies

Ready, Set, Food! is a little different from your standard baby cereal. The organic cereal includes the top nine food allergens in an effort to introduce them to your little one in small doses. (According to the 2020-2025 USDA Dietary Guidelines, parents should consider introducing babies to allergenic foods as early as 4 to 6 months to reduce the risk of developing food allergies.) The iron-fortified cereal is designed for babies aged 6 months and up, so it may not be the first thing your little one tries, but once they do chow down, they'll discover a range of flavors: Pumpkin, sweet potato cinnamon, banana apple, peanut butter banana and more.

Net weight: 8 oz.| Primary grains: Oatmeal | Major vitamins and minerals: Iron, calcium, potassium and vitamin C

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What Is Baby Cereal?

Baby cereal is typically made of grains 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.

When Do Babies Start Eating Cereal?

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—you might start introducing cereal when baby:

  • 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.

Is Rice Cereal Dangerous for Baby?

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 US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and exposure to the heavy metal can be harmful for little bodies.

“Arsenic is found in the environment from both man-made and natural sources and is therefore present in some foods,” explains Cristina Fernandez, MD, a pediatrician and maternal-child health researcher at New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. “Rice and rice-based food products have higher levels of inorganic arsenic than do other cereal crops, like wheat, oatmeal and barley, because of rice’s ability to take up arsenic from soil and water. Rice is also usually grown in water, compared to other cereal crops, and this increases the potential for arsenic uptake into the rice.”

Because of this, “it may be best to start with baby cereals comprised of grains such as oatmeal, barley, quinoa, rice-free mixed grains, and other non-rice cereals given that these cereal crops are consistently lower in arsenic and are a healthy choice for babies,” Fernandez says. Hamilton also suggests starting your baby on cereals other than rice. “I’ve recently stopped recommending rice cereal because of higher levels of arsenic,” he says. “Now, I’m going more toward oatmeal, barley, and quinoa as a primary beginning cereal.”

If you do choose to give baby rice cereal, 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 arsenic, notes the AAP. “You have to think about trace heavy metals in the environment in general,” Hamilton says. “You can’t avoid all toxic exposures.”

If you’re not sure what cereal to choose for your baby or you’re uncertain if the cereal you’ve chosen is a good fit for your child, Fernandez recommends talking to your pediatrician.

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.

About the writer:

Korin Miller is a freelance writer who’s written dozens of health features for The Bump. She specializes in commerce, wellness and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Women’s Health, Forbes, SELF and more. Korin is mom to four kids, ranging in age from 1 to 10 years old. She has a master’s degree from American University and lives by the beach.

Sources

Robert Hamilton, MD, FAAP, is a board-certified pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, and host of the podcast The Hamilton Review: Where Kids and Culture Collide.

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.

Cristina Fernandez, MD, is a pediatrician and maternal-child health researcher at New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. Her research focuses on food insecurity, diet-related disparities, and issues in development and health maintenance in vulnerable child populations.

US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services, Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025, December 2020.

Healthy Children (AAP), Where We Stand: Vitamin D & Iron Supplements for Babies, May 2022.

Healthy Children (AAP), Starting Solid Foods, August 2022.

US Food and Drug Administration, Supporting Document for Action Level for Inorganic Arsenic in Rice Cereals for Infants, February 2022.

US Food and Drug Administration, What You Can Do to Limit Exposure to Arsenic, April 2022.

Healthy Children (AAP), 5 Ways to Reduce Arsenic in Your Child’s Diet, June 2023.

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