I’m planning to introduce my almost six-month-old to solids soon. Is it okay to introduce him to oatmeal instead of rice cereal first?
For healthy infants with no known allergies, it would be reasonable to start with hypoallergenic foods (foods with low risk of allergy) during weaning. Both oatmeal and rice cereal fall into this category. Which to introduce first is mostly up to personal choice and convenience. Parents should note that oatmeal has a higher protein and fibre content and a lower carbohydrate content compared to rice cereal. This may vary with different brands of oatmeal and rice cereals in the market. Due to increased fibre content, some parents may notice that oatmeal tends to help their child’s bowel movement and prevent against constipation compared to rice cereal. Oatmeal also has properties that alleviate acid reflux which may be useful in children with reflux issues.
Whichever parents eventually choose, it is important to introduce the plain form of oatmeal or rice cereal for a few days first before introducing other add-ons as it would be easier to identify the cause should a food allergy occur. If parents are introducing pre-processed oatmeal or rice cereal, it is always important to read the food packaging to ensure that it is not adulterated with other ingredients that can cause allergy.
Food allergy symptoms include the development of hives, swelling of eyes and lips, vomiting and diarrhoea and can cause difficulty breathing if severe. This can be life threatening if not treated promptly. Symptoms usually show up within one to two hours after ingesting the food. If your child has any of these symptoms, stop any further feeds and consult your paediatrician. Bring along the food label during the visit and take note of the type of milk/ addition of any ingredients in the preparation.
Comparatively, it is rarer to get an allergy to rice cereal compared to oatmeal although the risk of allergy for both is low as stated above. All in all, it would be recommended to have a good variety and mix of both types of grain in the diet of infants eventually regardless of the order of introduction.
Special note should be taken for infants who have a positive family history of celiac disease- a condition whereby one has gluten intolerance. This condition is more common in Caucasian populations compared to Asians. Although oatmeal and rice cereal do not contain gluten, sometimes cross contamination can occur during the processing and hence it is important to ensure the food product is labelled ‘gluten free’ before purchasing it.
Question answered by:
Dr Christelle Tan
Specialist in Paediatric Medicine & Consultant
Raffles Specialists – Holland V