Best Baby Cereal Brands: 2021 Parent GuideThis post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure.
When your baby reaches 4-6 months of age, you may consider introducing cereal as your baby’s first food. Cereal is a logical choice because many of them are iron-fortified, a key nutrient for baby, and cereals are low risk when it comes to allergens. However, there are many different baby cereals on the market, and not all are created equal. It can be confusing to figure out what the best baby cereal might be for your child! That’s where this post comes in. In this post I outline the best baby cereal brands, as well as answer all of your questions about the types of baby cereal, which is the best, and the potential benefits and risks of starting with this first solid food.
Benefits Of Baby Cereal
High in Fiber and Essential Nutrients: Depending on the type of cereal you choose for your baby, you are providing them with a boost of fiber and nutrients. Many cereals are fortified with iron and other vitamins. Whole grains are also an excellent source of fiber, and oats in particular are an excellent source of magnesium and zinc.
Easily Digestible: When providing baby with their first food, you want to choose something that is gentle on their tummy. Baby cereals made with a single grain are easily digestible, and help baby feel fuller longer, while preventing gas.
Blends Easily With Other Foods: Blend your baby cereals with breast milk, baby formulas, or simple vegetable or fruit purees for added nutritional value. This is a simple way to introduce new foods to baby.
Prevents Constipation: When baby starts new foods, they may experience constipation as their tummies get used to new foods. Most baby cereal is rich in fiber which helps relieve constipation.
Boost Immune System: Some types of baby cereals are good sources of protein, such as oats. Oats contain beta-glucan that help boost infection-fighting blood cells. It also contains selenium and zinc, two important nutrients for warding off infection and boosting baby’s immune system.
Types Of Baby Cereal
- Rice: While this was traditionally used as the first food for babies, these single-grain cereals are now something you should limit or avoid with your baby, due to health concerns regarding the arsenic levels found in these cereals. Rice cereal is also pretty limited nutritionally, so it’s not a great choice unless your pediatrician specifically asks you to start with rice cereal due to concern over allergic reactions to other grains.
- Oatmeal: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, oatmeal cereal is a safer choice than rice cereal for babies first solid food. It is also gentle on your baby’s tummy, and gluten-free, and allergen friendly. Gluten-free oatmeal can be a good option for babies with celiac disease as well.
- Millet: Another gluten free option, millet is made from the seeds of some types of grasses. It is nutritious with vitamin B, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and iron, and a good source of protein. It’s also easily digestible and less allergenic than other foods.
- Quinoa: A high protein seed that is packed with nutrients and high in protein. It has a a full amino acid profile meaning that it contains all of the amino acids needed for your body in one food source. It’s also gluten-free, and less allergenic.
- Spelt: A form of wheat, this grain is not gluten-free, and can cause problems for babies that potentially have a gluten allergy. It’s easily digestible for those without a gluten allergy.
- Barley: Barley is packed with key vitamins and minerals like magnesium, protein and folate. Its high amounts of calcium can help strengthen bones as your baby grows, protect organs (like the liver) and boost immunity. This whole grain is gluten-free.
- Semolina: A type of grain made from durum wheat. It has a golden color, and a fine texture. It is not gluten-free, but is easily digestible for those that do not have a gluten sensitivity. It’s a good source of folate, protein, and iron.
- Multi-Grain (Oats, Spelt, Barley): Some cereal brands make multi-grain cereals. These use a combination of the grains above.
Why Is Rice Cereal Bad For Baby?
Rice cereal was widely used as the first solid food introduced to babies. However, in recent years there have been concerns about the levels of arsenic in baby rice cereal, and the safety of providing this food to infants.
In 2012, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) warned about high levels of inorganic arsenic in rice and rice products. In high doses, arsenic can be lethal, and in small doses it can damage the brain, nerves, blood vessels, skin, and increase the risk of birth defects and cancer. Both white rice and brown rice contain arsenic, with brown rice having higher concentrations.
The FDA’s concern is that studies have shown babies exposed to inorganic arsenic, including exposures before they are born, have a higher risk of learning problems. The infant and toddler rice cereals tested by the FDA had an average arsenic content of 103 ppb. Products made from brown rice are particularly high in arsenic.
As a result, the FDA and AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) have set forth guidelines with regard to the amount of rice cereal to give to baby, even if you are using organic rice cereal.
FDA and AAP Recommendations for Cereal & Rice Cereal
- Babies need only breast milk or infant formula until 4 to 6 months of age.
- Babies and toddlers should have varied grains in their diet. Do not rely on rice cereal only as their grain. In addition, as parents be aware of other foods they may be getting rice from such as puffs.
- If pregnant, vary the types of grains you are consuming, and limit the amount of rice you eat.
- If preparing rice, cook it in 6-10 parts water, per 1 part rice. Then drain the excess water. Cooking it in this way will reduce the arsenic levels by 40-60%.
- Limit your infant’s rice cereal intake to no more than 1/4 cup per day.
Top 5 Tips To Find The Best Baby Cereals
Fortified With Iron
Babies at six months of age need more iron, because their iron stores will decrease around 6 months of age. This is especially true for babies who are exclusively breast fed, since some baby formulas are fortified with iron. When choosing a baby cereal, take a look at the iron content. Many cereals are naturally a good source of iron.
Organic Baby Cereal
Always buy organic products and organic baby food when possible. There are many organic baby cereal options available. Organic baby cereals have less to no harmful pesticides. The EU has higher standards when it comes to organic farming, however, buying organic, even when made in the United States is a safer choice. Infants are more highly susceptible to the potentially harmful effects of pesticides in their foods because they are so small.
This means that your cereal does not include any genetically modified ingredients. The long term effects of consuming foods made with GMOs are unknown. Therefore, it’s a good idea to stay away from them. In addition, GMOs increase weeds, and thus lead to increased use and more harmful synthetic pesticides, which leads to other health problems.
Variety of Nutrients
Look for a cereal that provides your infant with a variety of nutrients. If you are choosing an organic, non-GMO, simple grain, that has one single ingredient, you are providing your child with varied nutrients such as iron, folic acid, B vitamins, vitamin E, protein, and other vitamins and nutrients. While all cereals have vitamins, they don’t all have the same vitamins. Consider providing your infant with a variety of different cereals after they get used to one.
Before buying any cereal, look at the ingredient label. Make sure that there are no artificial flavors, artificial colors, added fats, sugars, or added salts. Choose a cereal with simple ingredients. Single grain cereals are best to start with, and then as baby gets used to those, you can consider a multi-grain cereal. Most cereals should have only one ingredient, or a few if it is a multi-grain cereal.
While not necessary, you may want to consider starting your baby with a gluten-free cereal to avoid an allergic reaction. While not all babies will have an allergen to gluten, it’s best to give them something that will be more gentle on their digestive track.
Signs Your Baby Is Ready For Solid Foods
As mentioned above, you should not introduce any type of solid foods to your child before the age of 4 months, and you may want to wait longer to be sure they are ready and can tolerate the new food. Here are the the signs that your baby is ready for solid foods.
- Baby has good head and neck control.
- Can sit up on their own.
- Lost the tongue thrust reflex. Does not automatically push foods out with their tongue.
- Baby has developed their “pincer” grasp, can pick up food with thumb and forefinger.
- Shows interest in food when you are eating, and reaches out to grab food.
Baby Cereal FAQs
You should start your baby on cereal no earlier than 4 months. You can also wait until 6 months without any harmful effects, as long as your baby is getting an iron supplement from somewhere else, such as formula, or iron drops if your baby is breast fed.
The best choice of cereal for baby includes those that are easy on baby’s digestion, free of common allergens, organic, non-GMO, and free of added artificial ingredients, fats, or sugars. Infant foods such as oatmeal is a good choice. It is gluten-free, allergen friendly, a good source of protein, iron, and other vitamins, and gently on babies tummy. Other cereals to consider are millet, barley, spelt, or quinoa.
Fortified baby cereal is often introduced as a first food in baby’s diet because it is gentle on the tummy, bland, less likely to cause allergic reactions, easy to prepare, and easy for baby to consume. It’s also a good source of nutrients such as fiber, protein, and other vitamins and minerals.
Yes! You do not need to feed your baby cereal if you do not want to. You can go right to foods like vegetables and other baby foods if you prefer. Providing your baby with super foods such as blueberries, and avocado will give them lots of nutrients. Just be sure that you monitor your baby’s iron levels, and supplement with iron fortified foods, or drops if needed.
When you’re first starting out on solids, just a little bit of cereal a day should be enough for your baby. I recommend a tablespoon of dry cereal a day when you introduce solids, and you can increase from there. The amount of cereal you use will depend on your baby’s age. But in general, I recommend sticking to fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean protein – so you likely won’t need more than 4-5 tablespoons of cereal per day once your baby has fully transitioned to solid foods.
For years it was thought that putting cereal in your baby’s bottle would help them sleep longer through the night. However, recent studies have shown that there is no correlation between feeding your child cereal in their bottle, and sleeping longer. Not only is this ineffective, but it also increases their risk of choking. In addition, adding cereal to your babies bottle makes it thicker. This can then cause some confusion for your baby when you introduce solid foods, making it difficult for them to distinguish a difference between liquids and solids, and thus making it more difficult for you to introduce new solid foods to your baby.
Rice cereal has arsenic because of the way that is grown. Rice naturally more susceptible to absorbing arsenic from the soil in which it is grown, and because it is grown in water. The inorganic arsenic in pesticides runs off and stays in the water in which the rice is grown, and the rice then absorbs the arsenic.
Top 10 Best Baby Cereal Brands
I recommend buying organic baby cereal whenever possible — to reduce the risk of injecting harmful pesticides. All of the brands on this list make organic baby cereal!
This European brand is made using whole grains, which are easily digestible. Suitable for babies 4 months and up. The organic whole grain oats used in Holle porridges are carefully selected for the best quality. This cereal contains only two ingredients: wholegrain oat flour, vitamin B1.
Holle Millet Cereal is a high quality European brand that provides a quality, carefully selected grains. This cereal has only two ingredients: whole grain millet flour* 100%, Vitamin B1. It is a good source of vitamin B, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and iron.
This spelt flour cereal by the European brand, Holle, is made with two simple ingredients: wholegrain spelt flour, and vitamin B1. Holle carefully selects their grains, and makes sure that they meet the highest organic standards in Europe.
If deciding to use a rice cereal with your infant, the best rice cereal to choose is Holle. It is made with the highest standards, and thus has the lowest arsenic levels. However, be aware that rice baby cereal is still potentially harmful in large quantities, and should be limited. If choosing to use a rice cereal with your infant, be sure to use other cereals as well, and limit rice to no more than 1/4 cup per day.
Made in the Netherlands, Kabrita is a nutrient dense cereal made with a combination of organic oats, goat’s milk, organic rice flakes, organic spelt flour, and organic buckwheat flour. This gluten-free combination of oats and goat’s milk provides a nutrient dense cereal. All you need to do as add water.
Wutsup Baby Food is a company that uses quinoa to provide a nutrient rich baby cereal. The high quality organic quinoa powder they use provides your baby with a complete amino acid profile, meaning that your child is getting a complete protein. In addition, it is rich in fiber, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, folate, copper, iron, zinc, and potassium. With only three ingredients: quinoa flour, apples, and bananas.
Wutsup Baby Food is a company that uses quinoa to provide a nutrient rich baby cereal. The high quality organic quinoa powder they use provides your baby with a complete amino acid profile, meaning that your child is getting a complete protein. In addition, it is rich in fiber, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, folate, copper, iron, zinc, and potassium. This type has added kale and sweet potato which adds to the nutrient profile. With only three ingredients: quinoa flour, kale, and sweet potato.
Wutsup Baby Food is a company that uses quinoa to provide a nutrient rich baby cereal. The high quality organic quinoa powder they use provides your baby with a complete amino acid profile, meaning that your child is getting a complete protein. In addition, it is rich in fiber, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, folate, copper, iron, zinc, and potassium. This type has added apple and banana. With only three ingredients: quinoa flour, apple, and banana.
Made with organic oats, vitamin C and iron that helps support baby’s brain development, the smooth texture of this organic, whole grain cereal is a good first food for baby. Easy to prepare, and gentile on babies tummy.
With simple ingredients, like organic gluten-free oats, you can easily make your own oats for baby at a much better cost, and in three easy steps.
- Grind the oats into a flour like consistency.
- Cook like you would regular oatmeal
- Freeze in 1 oz ice cube trays or serve immediately mixed with fruit purees, formula, or breastmilk).
Note: Earth’s Best organic infant cereal is a popular choice for baby cereals, but because many of Earth’s Best’s products and cereals tested high in heavy metals, I chose not to include them in this list. Some of Happy Baby’s baby food tested high in heavy metals, but their cereal seems to be ok (which is why they are on this list!)
I hope this guide to organic baby cereal has answered your questions, and helped you make an informed choice about the type of cereal you’d like to start your baby on.
Check Out These Other Helpful Baby Food Guides!
- How to Make Homemade Baby Food
- How to Store Homemade Baby Food
- 10 Must Have Baby Food Recipes
- Best Organic Baby Formula
- Healthiest Kids Vitamins