When can you start feeding your baby rice cereal?

Answered by: Loraine Stern, M.D.

Question: My son just turned 3 months old. He's been eating 8 ounces of formula about every hour to hour and a half and has doubled his birth weight in eight weeks. Because he was eating so frequently and so much, his doctor suggested adding 2 or 3 teaspoons of rice cereal to his formula at each feeding.

Now his appetite has increased to 10 ounces every few hours, and I am still feeding him the cereal with the formula. Do I really need to wait until he is older before I try to introduce cereal with a spoon? I don't think he is satisfied after feedings.

Answer: When infants are born, they have a natural tendency to push anything solid out of their mouths with their tongues. Before this reflex starts to disappear, anything introduced into the mouth on a spoon will be pushed out rather than carried to the back of the throat to be swallowed, and spoon feeding will be an exercise in frustration. As this reflex gradually disappears, babies can take solid food from a spoon.

Most infants (but not all) need only breast milk or formula for the first four to six months. It sounds as if your baby may be asking for more. Sometimes, however, the need to suck is wrongly interpreted as a need to eat, and an infant can be overfed.

Have you made sure that your baby won't be just as content with a pacifier instead of a bottle? If a pacifier doesn't work, try rice cereal from a spoon. The process of spoon feeding takes longer than sucking a bottle, and your son may be satisfied with less total food. Don't worry about his being a little chunky at this age. A fat baby is not necessarily a fat adult. Infants this age should have creases for wrists and arms that look like strings of knockwurst. Also, remember this period when he is 3 and refuses most of the food you want him to eat.