Adding rice cereal to bottles
Some people believe that adding rice cereal to your baby's formula may help them sleep better or fight reflux, but it could be causing potential problems for your baby
Bottle fed baby

The short answer to this is: Don't add rice cereal to your baby's formula unless you have been advised by your health care provider. But let's take a look at the reasons behind it, and the potential problems it could cause.

Why would people add rice cereal or cornstarch?

Some parents claim that adding rice cereal or cornstarch to formula improves the behaviour of their previously irritable, hungry or reflux baby. This has been known to be successful, but what you may not be aware of, is that this seemingly harmless act has the potential to create health problems for a baby, most of which are not obvious.

Potential problems

Adding rice cereal or corn starch to baby’s bottles on a regular basis increases the risk of problems such as:

  • The baby receiving a disproportionate amount of carbohydrates to protein and fats, resulting in nutritional deficiencies.
  • If the baby is consuming more calories than normal then he may not learn to self-regulate properly - increasing the risk of obesity later in life
  • This may constipate your baby
  • Increased gas. The digestive enzyme required to break down starches (like rice cereal and corn starch) does not develop fully until around three months of age. Undigested starches will be broken down by bacteria in the baby’s large intestine. 
  • Lung problems. Babies still regurgitate thickened feeds. Thickening just means it’s less likely to make it all the way out of the baby’s mouth. The younger the baby the greater the chance of aspirating regurgitated thickened feeds into his lungs.

So can you do anything else to soothe your baby?

If your baby is particularly irritable, it will help to have consistent conditions when your baby goes to sleep - including props or activities he relies on to fall asleep. If these change, he is more likely to wake up and become irritable due to lack of sleep. If they need to change, encourage new associations that will be able to stay consistent. 

Before you jump to the conclusion that your baby is always hungry, check that he is not just wanting to soothe-suck. Offer him a pacifier, your finger, or encourage him to suck his own fingers or fist. If he is truly hungry he will not be content to suck on any of these.

Check that your baby is not overfeeding if he has a reflux problem. A baby's desire to suck can cause them to overfeed, which in turn may lead to regurgitation. It's also possible that they are feeding too quickly if they have a fast flowing teat.


This article was written by Rowena Bennett and adapted for Kidspot, New Zealand's favourite parenting resource for Early Life Nutrition.
Breastfeeding is best for babies and provides many benefits. Combined breast and bottle feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of your own breast milk. Always consult your doctor, midwife or health care professional for advice about feeding your baby. This post is part of the Early Life Nutrition story.
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