by Pheyy & Tira

November 21, 2020

Did you know about 7% of babies and young children have a food allergy and infants are at greater risk for developing a food allergy if a biological parent or sibling has on?

Here is what our research says.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends introducing babies to infant cereals between 4 and 6 months of age.

But, many of the new moms still wonder, with children who may be susceptible, which cereal is least likely to cause allergies in infants?

Food Allergies in Children

Understanding what food allergies are, what ingredients are (or are not) used and nutritional benefits of infant cereals available on the market today will help you understand what is best for your child.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports that the prevalence of food allergies in children increased by 50% between 1997 and 2011. Eight major food allergens are responsible for most of the serious reactions in the United States:

  • Milk
  • Egg
  • Peanut
  • Tree nuts
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Fish
  • Crustacean shellfish

Now, some of you might think it's a food intolerance.

A food intolerance is not the same as a food allergy although symptoms may be the same.

Food allergies cause an immune system response and can be life-threatening, an intolerance does not.

Symptoms of both an allergy or intolerance can result in hives, diarrhea or vomiting to name a few.

So we know what you’re thinking. The most common allergens are not in most infant cereals anyway, right?

Let’s find out!

Infant Cereals

Let us tell you.

Transitioning from breast milk or formula to infant cereal is known to be a great first food due to the consistency and nutritional benefits.

Here is what our data says.

By 6 months, iron is no longer produced at the level needed for infants which is why iron-fortified cereals are such a good choice when transitioning to solid foods. 

Not all countries, however, approach first infant cereal the same way, and choices may be determined by cultural beliefs:

  • Some countries such as France and Spain only provide recommendations about whether to introduce cereals with or without gluten, and advise on providing gluten-free before five and six months of age.
  • Rice cereal is most popular in the United Kingdom and Ireland while oat cereal is the first introduction in the Nordics and Baltics – except Norway where rice is most common.
  • In the United States, iron-fortified baby cereals primarily from rice or oats are used in order for infants to get the recommended 11 milligrams.

Types of Infant Cereal

Regardless of where you live, several options of are available to choose from.

If you have concerns for a food allergy, paying attention to the main ingredient of the cereal whether that be rice, oat or quinoa, as an example, is just as important as paying attention to other ingredients.

Below are the pros and cons of infant cereals available today.

Rice

Pros

  • Rice alone is not a common allergen
  • Mild flavor
  • Gluten-Free
  • Easy to digest
  • Iron-fortified
  • Added vitamins
  • Organic options available

Cons

  • Arsenic (both organic and inorganic) is a metal that rice naturally soaks up from soil and water and can have detrimental effects in a baby’s immune system.

The FDA released an analysis of arsenic in 1,100 samples of rice and rice products, including 69 samples of infant cereals.

They found a range between 0.6-3.8 mcg/serving, with some of the highest levels found in organic brown rice cereal. It is recommended to avoid feeding infants multiple types of rice products daily - crackers, puffs or snacks.

  • Many rice cereals include milk, wheat or soy “filler” ingredients. Carefully read the label. You may be introducing more than just rice to your baby at one time making it difficult to determine an allergic reaction.
  • Other cereal options provide more iron
  • Low in protein compared to other available options
  • Some infants may have an allergic or negative reaction to rice
  • The added iron to a baby’s learning digestive system can cause constipation
  • Mild flavor profile may inhibit ability to try different, more flavorful foods 

Oat

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends oatmeal cereal for babies with acid reflux and some experts recommend oatmeal over rice cereal due to the possible arsenic exposure. Oatmeal is also a complex carbohydrate and offers better nutritional benefits than rice cereal.

Pros

  •  Oats are not a common allergen
  •  Good source of protein (26 grams of protein per 1 raw cup)
  • Iron-fortified (4 to 5 mg iron per ¼ cup)
  • Good source of fiber
  • Added vitamins
  • Organic options available

Cons

  • Many oat cereals contain milk, wheat or soy “filler” ingredients. Gerber baby offers an organic banana oat cereal but contains wheat introducing another potential allergen.
  • The added iron to a baby’s learning digestive system can cause constipation

Barley

Pros

  • Nutrient rich (fiber, amino acids, iron, copper, B vitamins, manganese, iron)
  • Makes immune system stronger
  • Strengthens bones (phosphorous and calcium)
  • Barley protects against liver damage

Cons

  • Not recommended to introduce until after 6 months
  • Contains wheat, a common allergen
  • The added iron to a baby’s learning digestive system can cause constipation 

Infant Pseudocereals

 Pseudocereals, such as quinoa or amaranth are often included within the true cereals as a result of such similar nutritional profiles and uses. Below are some pseudocereals to consider for your baby:

 Quinoa

Pros

  •  Great source of protein
  • Iron-fortified
  • Nutrient rich (healthy fats, antioxidants and fiber)
  • Packed with 12 vitamins
  • Considered a baby super food
  • Supports brain function
  • Healthy digestive, muscular, and cardiovascular systems
  • Easy to digest
  • Often offered in various flavors (carrot and quinoa)

Cons

  • The added iron to a baby’s learning digestive system can cause constipation
  • May contain milk, wheat or soy “filler” ingredients, potentially introducing one of the top eight allergens. Read the label.

Amaranth

Pros

  • Complete protein source (28 grams of protein per 1 raw cup)
  • Iron rich (15 milligrams of iron  in one cup of raw Amaranth)
  • Rich in vitamin A, K and C
  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Strengthens immune system
  • Promotes muscle growth
  • Gluten-free

Cons

  • The added iron to a baby’s learning digestive system can cause constipation
  • If there is an intolerance to lysinuric protein, amaranth may cause diarrhea and stomach pain
  • Can lower insulin levels
  • Can increase calcium absorption to unsafe levels

What Infant Cereal Is Right For Your Baby?

So we can tell you this.

For some parents, the first indication that their baby has a potential food allergy starts in infancy.

When a baby is breastfed and experiences discomforts ranging from reflux, blood in stools and fussy behaviors, these can be signs of potential allergies.

Other babies may not develop symptoms until the introduction of solid foods.

The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines state not to avoid allergenic food beyond 4 to 6 months.

Introducing potentially allergenic foods earlier rather than later has been studied with successful preventative outcomes.

It is possible to be allergic to rice and oats outside of the most common allergens.

Our recommendation is. 

  • The best way to avoid an allergy is to start with one new food ingredient at a time and monitor symptoms.  
  • Be cautious when buying infant cereals with added ingredients so you can differentiate between the new foods when introducing them to your baby. Therefore, we recommend to make your own baby food for a peace of mind
  • As always, talk to your pediatrician if you are concerned about food allergies to determine the best plan of action for you and your child.

About the author

Hi, my name is Michael L. Green and I live in Cleveland, OH with my wonderful wife,
our two little girls. Our family are the founder and primary contributors behind Baby Edible.


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