Feeding a baby can be a fun, daunting or even an intimate activity. The following are 15 delicious baby’s first foods that aren’t rice cereal. But first, let’s talk about that rice cereal.
Rice Cereal at 4 Months Old
At around 4 months old, well meaning friends and pediatricians will recommend starting baby on solids – particularly rice cereal. Here are 4 common reasons rice cereal is recommended (but are actually not good reasons to use rice cereal).
Rice Cereal for an Iron Supplement
The first and biggest reason rice cereal is recommended at 4 months and up is because rice cereal is actually an iron supplement. Baby’s are born with sufficient iron stores, but as they near 6 months to 1 year old their stores of iron may become low or depleted thus needing an additional outside iron source.
Some babies are more or less anemic than others (because all babies are different).
When Mercy was 4 months old her pediatrician told me that breastmilk had no iron in it and I therefore needed to give her an iron supplement (rice cereal). Upon further investigation, my doubts were confirmed – there is indeed iron in breastmilk.
However, there is less iron in breastmilk than many doctors think adequate. but if you do some digging you’ll learn that the iron in breastmilk is more bio-available. Bio-available iron means that the iron is in a form that is easy for baby to digest and use in the body, unlike its synthetic alternatives (rice cereal).
In conclusion, the amount of iron in breastmilk is adequate for a baby and iron supplementation is not indicated for every baby across the board. If you suspect your baby to be anemic, get their levels tested. If baby is anemic, rice cereal may not be the best vehicle for iron (see iron rich baby’s first food ideas below).
Rice Cereal to Gain Weight
The second reason rice cereal is recommended at 4 months and up is to help baby gain weight or to “fatten them up”. I have always had little babies that liked to hang out in the lower percentiles and kept me wondering if they will follow a growth curve.
At this point, my well-meaning pediatrician typically will undermine my confidence in breastfeeding by recommending supplementing with – you guessed it – rice cereal. (I promise he’s a good doctor minus his nutritional counseling)
The error in this logic is that eating any sort of food, for the sake of gaining weight, is the right thing to do.
If baby is not gaining weight properly, and you’ve already met with a lactation counselor, sure, feed your baby – especially if they’re old enough for table foods. However, do remember one thing. Nutrient dense foods are far superior to rice cereal, especially when it comes helping baby gain weight.
Nutrient dense foods are more important than eating for the sake of eating, especially when it comes to rice cereal.
Rice Cereal to Sleep Through The Night
The third reason rice cereal is recommended at 4 months and up is to help baby sleep through the night. Without going into much detail about helping baby sleep, I will tell you that research does not back up the claim that rice cereal helps babies sleep through the night.
Sorry to burst that bubble!
Rice Cereal For Fun
The last reason rice cereal is recommended at 4 months and up is because feeding a baby table food is so much fun! And everyone is right! Feeding a baby IS great fun – it’s a great way to have a good time and bond.
But is having fun a good enough reason to start baby on solids? Is having fun a good enough reason to start baby on rice cereal?
Rice Cereal Contains High Levels of Arsenic
But wait, it gets better.
The FDA recently released new guidelines for baby rice cereal because in it they have found absurdly high levels of arsenic.
Scientific studies have shown an association between adverse pregnancy outcomes and neurological effects in early life with inorganic arsenic exposure.
Also, 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 including dietary exposures.
“Relative to body weight, rice intake for infants, primarily through infant rice cereal, is about three times greater than for adults. Moreover, national intake data show that people consume the most rice (relative to their weight) at approximately 8 months of age.”
Mamas… you may be putting your babies at risk by feeding them rice cereal. Their tiny bodies can’t handle the high levels of arsenic. It’s so bad for their development.
The FDA might not be able to say STOP FEEDING BABIES RICE CEREAL (because the manufacturers will get angry) but here at Mother Rising I feel confident telling you the truth.
Scroll down and look at the list of 15 delicious baby’s first foods that aren’t rice cereal. Feeding your baby doesn’t have to be dangerous!
When to Start Baby Food
So now that we know reasons to NOT feed a baby rice cereal, let’s talk about WHEN to start baby’s first foods. How do we know when a baby is ready for baby food? Below are some things to look for in a baby, but do remember every baby is different.
For example, my oldest son was not interested in table foods until after he turned one. And even then, he still preferred milk. If I fed him a mushed banana, he would gag on it. Table food wasn’t his thing. Fast foward 6 years later and not much has changed! My boy is busy and much prefers snacks over meals. He wants to be on the go! It wasn’t until he was 6 years old that he began enjoying a wider variety of foods like avocados, etc. He is my pickiest eater. I’m convinced he came out that way!
My second child I call “my eater”. She has always eaten or at least tried everything. She started eating food with us in her highchair at a way younger age than my son and enjoyed gnawing on raw broccoli as one of baby’s first foods. Also, she was my “baby led weaning” baby. To this day, she has a healthy appetite and will eat most things. I’m convinced she came out that way!
So far, my third child seems slightly interested in table foods. More interested than my son, but less interested than my second child. At 7 months old she gags on purees still some, but will pull my finger toward her mouth when she knows something tasty is on the other end. As this is my last baby, and I’ve never done this before, I’m wanting to have some fun with her and make homemade baby’s first foods for her.
Here are some other things to look for when determining when to start baby food.
- can sit up unassisted
- seems interested
- seems hungry
- does not gag on pureed table food
- and the tongue thrust reflex is gone
If a baby is till showing signs of not being ready, wait a week or more and then try again. Don’t worry, your child will eventually eat table food!
15 Delicious Baby’s First Foods (That Aren’t Rice Cereal)
The following are 15 delicious baby’s first foods to try that fill the need rice cereal wants to fill – iron supplementation, gain weight, help baby sleep and just for fun.
Age Appropriate Baby’s First Foods (Ages 4-6 Months and Up)
To create this list, I used the amazing Sage Spoonful’s recipe book called Sage Spoonfuls – Simple Recipes, Healthy Meals, Happy Babies. Instead of spending a fortune on jarred, store bought baby food (this stuff costs $1-2 PER JAR), this buy this book instead. It’s worth its weight in gold!
15 Baby’s first foods:
- butternut squash
- sweet potato
Baby’s First Foods High in Iron
Nutrient Dense Baby’s First Foods
- Avocado (Avocados are one of nature’s superfoods. They are high in potassium and mono-unsaturated fat, which is great for the nervous system.)
- Sweet Potato
- Butternut Squash
Baby’s First Foods to Help Sleep Through The Night
Remember? Supplementing with table food won’t help your baby sleep through the night. Sorry! Try a transitioning out of a swaddle blanket instead.
Fun Baby’s First Foods Combinations
Here are some fun baby’s first foods combinations that you may not have considered. Have fun and get creative!
Banana + Avocado
Pear + Peas
Apple + Pumpkin
Parsnips + Sweet Potato + Banana
Demystifying Homemade Babyfood
To be honest, making my own babyfood always seemed extravagant. Time consuming. And just plain old not worth it.
That is until I received Sage Spoonfuls’ Glass Homemade Essentials Package.
The book, which I love, love, love, gently guided me through the process step by step.
Author Liza Huber motivated me to make my own baby food, taught me the essentials (allergies, foods to avoid, etc.), showed me what I needed to get started (most of which was in the Essentials Package) and then guided me through each age appropriate food.
She even gave me a list of the “dirty dozen” and “clean 15” to help me get the most bang for my buck when buying organic produce.
My first attempt at making Mercy her own, fresh baby food was so much fun! We had pears on hand and I thought hey, I’ll give it a shot. I peeled the pears, cored and diced them and then gently steamed them. The book held my hand and walked me through it.
After they steamed and were soft, I used the emersion blender in my Pyrex measuring cup and pureed them. I suppose I could have used the Sage Spoonfuls food processor, but hey, it worked!
And after I was done I thought to myself, “Oh wow, that was super easy and fun. What’s been my problem all these years?”
After making Mercy’s first pear sauce I gave her a little bit. Her tongue pushed it around and out, but she seemed very interested. Above is her reaction after I gave her a taste on my finger.
TIP: Instead of using a baby spoon when first introducing baby’s first foods use your finger. It’s a much more natural way to introduce food to a baby. Try it, you’ll see!
After Mercy ate 2 spoonfuls of pear sauce, her other siblings and I ate the rest. It was delicious!
Next up was peas. We were having peas for dinner and I thought hey, I’ll give it a shot. How hard could it be?
Tip: You need to use more peas than shown in the picture above or it won’t blend well. I learned this the hard way. If I were to have read the BOOK, I would have saved some time. 😉
Tada! Here are my pureed pees! As per usual, Mercy had to bites and then was ready to move onto other things. The picture above was taken the next morning. See how vibrantly green those peas are? Jarred peas in the grocery store are NOT that color.
Also, these glass jars are amazing. I think I want 50 more. I can see myself throwing these full of fresh snacks in my backpack for on the go. Love them!
Confession: I may or may not have made black bean dip with the Sage Spoonfuls food processor attachment. For adults. For our Superbowl Party.
Feed the Babies
In conclusion, when your baby is ready there are many delicious, healthy and SAFE baby’s first foods to choose from. They are…
- butternut squash
- sweet potato
Rice cereal is not one of them!
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Wednesday 24th of March 2021
Hello, Just because I'm curious, would rice cereal be safe if it was homemade? I had planned to follow a recipe for grinding up organic brown rice to make into baby cereal. Would it be any safer if, after I'm sure baby isn't allergic to rice, to alternate between rice, oatmeal, barley, etc. so he doesn't eat so much rice?
This is silly, but my mother has been complaining that everything she did with me was somehow terrible (and she was a total hippie, crunchy mom), and she has been telling me that rice is the best first food since my baby was born! I was hoping to give her this one. ;)
Wednesday 31st of March 2021
I don't really know... but if my memory is serving me well I remember hearing a report (somewhere.. not sure where) that there was arsenic in organic rice, which surprised me.
Tuesday 13th of October 2020
What about oatmeal cereal for baby?
Thursday 2nd of May 2019
How long do they last in the fridge? Also, did you use frozen peas and cooked them or did you mash up canned peas?
Wednesday 8th of May 2019
I used frozen peas (I really dislike canned peas!). I think they'd last as long as other leftover foods in the fridge. I'd eat it within 2-3 days, but it could likely last longer. :)
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