Cereals for babies: the nutritional value of cereals

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Cereals for babies: the nutritional value of cereals

At a time when the fight against obesity in children is one of the main priorities of health professionals, the value of infant cereals is often controversial. It is quite possible to offer them to your child, but be sure to introduce them at the appropriate age, depending on whether your child is breastfed or not, and control the quantities well.

When to introduce cereals into the baby’s diet?

Whether baby is breastfed or bottle fed, giving cereals to your baby is absolutely not compulsory. Breast milk and infant formula cover all of your baby’s nutritional needs up to 6 months, the average age at the start of food diversification during which solid foods will be introduced to meet the child’s changing needs. .

If you want to offer baby cereals to your little one, note that pediatricians recommend not to introduce them before the age of 4 to 6 months if he is fed on infant milk (powdered milk) and before the 6 months old if breastfed. Once this rule is respected, there is no real rule as to when to start infant cereals: trust the messages your baby sends you, especially if he has doubled his birth weight and if he is increasing. the frequency of his feedings, even at night.

So, if you have had to increase the number of bottles or feeds over 3 consecutive days and it still does not seem to fill your baby, you may decide to introduce infant cereals.

The nutritional value of cereals for the baby

Although infant cereals are not compulsory, they still have certain advantages, especially for babies who wake up at night with real hunger – not to be confused with simple nocturnal awakenings, normal in babies and children. very young. In this case, used in reasonable amounts, at the rate of two tablespoons in the evening bottle, or possibly mixed with breast milk as a supplement to the breastfeeding, they can help baby get fuller and have a better night’s sleep.

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Infant cereals can also be introduced very moderately to gently initiate baby’s food diversification by making him discover flavors like milk and new textures.

For babies who tend to sulk from the bottle, flavored cereals (vanilla, chocolate for example) can be a helping solution for parents so that baby continues to take the amounts of milk recommended for his age.

In addition, infant cereals are often fortified with iron, zinc and vitamins A and C. But this health argument often hides a commercial argument, because up to 6 months, baby’s needs are met and thereafter, this health argument. are the solid foods of a varied diet, adapted to the baby’s age, which take over. This argument should therefore not influence your choice if your baby is eating enough and has no particular growth concerns.

Whether or not you decide to give your child cereal, remember that milk should remain your child’s main diet until the age of one year and that it is only at 9 months of age that quantity of milk should decrease, to allow a gradual increase in the consumption of solid foods. Be careful with the quantities of cereals because offering them in excess could lead to a risk of overeating and nutritional imbalance by increasing the intake of carbohydrates and reducing the intake of milk, essential for baby. In addition, given in excess, cereals can cause digestive discomfort.

Cadantities to give to baby?

Between 4 and 6 months: Add one or two teaspoons of infant cereals per slice of 100 ml of milk, in a single bottle. Then, a week later, add cereal in two bottles according to these same proportions.

From 7 months, you can offer a solid meal by putting five or six level teaspoons of cereals mixed with 2nd age milk or breast milk so as to obtain a thick porridge that you will give with a spoon. Subsequently, you can gradually increase the amounts up to 9 teaspoons.

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Warning: Always offer the bottle or breast to your child, before offering him a solid meal so that it does not induce a decrease in milk intake.

Infant cereals

On the market, in the baby food section, there are several types of infant cereals:

  • cereal flour (wheat, rice, barley, oats, rye or corn removed from their husk, bran). However, before 6 months, it is preferable to avoid giving wheat, rye, barley or oat flour because they contain gluten for which the risk of allergies are important.
  • root or tuber flour (potato or tapioca)
  • aleurone flours (soya, sunflower) devoid of starch and ideal for diets without milk
  • flours from legumes (lentils, peas, beans, etc.) generally more difficult to assimilate

Infant flours are presented as a powder to be reconstituted in infant milk or with breast milk, ready to drink or to cook. They are often plain or flavored with vanilla, cocoa or honey or caramel and are available in several ranges:

Introductory cereals (4 months to 7 months)

They are rich in iron but are all gluten free to avoid sensitization to gliadin (gluten). Their starch has been specially hydrolyzed to facilitate the digestion of babies whose digestion system is still immature. At this age, choose cereals that are more sugar-free, possibly flavored. The cereals offered for babies from 4 to 7 months contain:

  • Less than 8g of sugar per serving
  • 100% of the daily value (DV) for iron

Transition cereals (from 8 months)

Also processed to be more digestible, they contain gluten. When they are “to be cooked”, they make it possible to prepare porridge given with a spoon. The foods in this range must contain:

  • Less than 8g of sugar per serving
  • 100% of the daily value (DV) for iron
  • 2 g or more of fiber

“Junior” cereals

They may relay the previous ones and are intended for children from 1 to 3 years old.

To make the right choice among the more than 70 references offered on the market, in general, opt for preparations which are both stamped “GMO free” and which are the least sweet (look for the words “including sugars” in the table of nutritional values).

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Cereals and allergies in babies

Healthcare professionals have long suggested giving the grains that cause the least food allergies first (rice, for example) and those that are most likely to cause them last (such as soybeans).


According to the most recent recommendations, these precautions are not particularly justified: there is no scientific proof that delaying the introduction of allergens would protect a child against possible subsequent food allergies.

In the event of an atopic site, that is to say in the event of an allergy in the child’s family (father, mother, brother or sister), it is however recommended to discuss with your pediatrician, your allergist or your family doctor , before introducing children’s cereals and any other potentially allergenic food. At the same time, he will give you all the information to know how to react in the event of an allergic reaction in the child.

To identify any possible allergy or food intolerance, in the event of allergic or not, the recommendations for cereals remain the same as for other foods: introduce only one new cereal at a time while waiting at least 3 days. before introducing a new one.

How to prepare baby cereals?

Infant cereals can be mixed with baby’s bottle to provide a slightly thicker drink or be mixed with milk (powder or breast) to be presented in porridge form.

Note that whatever brand you choose, it is not useful, and it is even strongly recommended not to add sugar to cereals. Your baby will appreciate them just as much and you will limit the risk of later cavities as well as his appetite for sugar.

Finally, remember that milk should continue to be the priority food for your child up to one year: the introduction of cereals should not spoil his appetite for the breast or bottle.

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