”When should I start putting cereal in my baby’s bottle?“—I get asked some variation of this question about twice a week. Clearly there isn’t enough education around it, so I’m here to give you the facts. No disrespect, but if your partner, mom, grandma, auntie, sister or friend are not lactation professionals, please refrain from following their directive on this topic if it’s not correct. Generationally this has been passed down in our Black community but I can’t help but ignore the link to this and higher SIDS deaths amongst our Black babies. This is actually a rather serious topic and leads me to believe the correlation between this is stronger than we think.
Breastmilk is proven to be the most efficient and nutritious first food available, so it makes sense that we would want to provide a natural substance to a creature as pure as an infant.
It also happens to be the food that has all the components needed to reduce the risks for many diseases that affect black children more often, such as type 2 diabetes, asthma, SIDS and childhood obesity. You can literally set up your child’s health to be in better overall health and well being in their adult future, not just present. Black baby boys are at the highest of SIDS rates, yet least likely to be breastfed and most likely to be over fed and this could be in part due to fear of the child welfare system which preys upon families of color to disrupt, separate, and make us seem dysfunctional, incompetent or inadequate to raise our own children.
All babies are LESS likely to pass away from SIDS if they are EXCLUSIVELY breastfed due to how human milk digests more quickly and easily which causes babies to wake up more often in the night to eat rather than falling into a deep state of sleep that is believed to lead to SIDS.
Mamas and papas, there is no need to try and force feed your baby to eat more to stay asleep longer, let them regulate their sleeping habits on their own. I know you’re tired, it will happen.
Babies who are fed formula or have cereals in the bottle are more easily and more often over fed which causes them to fall into that deep comatose like sleep state which they cannot wake from because their body is working too hard to try and digest it. Please make the process easier on your baby by allowing their digestive systems to fully mature before introducing solid foods and that includes baby cereals. Typically around 4-6 months of age when they are sitting up unassisted with good head, neck and pincer grasp control.
If you need help getting your baby to sleep or getting more for yourself, visit my colleague Jen Varela, a trusted gentle sleep coach at Sugar Night Night.
Always consult with your baby’s care provider and team to find out all options on feeding your baby according to their stage and development. All babies are different, so don’t compare one to another. Follow your baby’s lead and don’t rush them. Wishing you much rest and sending you positive energy for your parenting journey. Let’s save our babies!