A question I get asked ALL the time is “should my baby’s first food be baby rice or baby porridge?” In this blog I’ll cover why you don’t HAVE to start weaning with baby rice or porridge and what foods I recommend instead.
Is baby rice or porridge the best food for baby?
Many parents wonder what the “best” food is to start weaning with. Traditionally, baby rice or porridge have been popular first choices, as they’re fairly sweet in taste, similar to the taste of formula or breastmilk, their texture is smooth and they’re often fortified with vitamins and minerals.
Over the years, as we’ve learnt more about the nutritional needs of young children, as well the behavioural aspects of babies learning to eat, there have been changes to the advice of the “what” and “how” to start weaning.
Firstly, if you want to offer your baby baby rice or baby porridge as their first food, that’s absolutely fine to do! They do offer nutrition in the way of vitamins and minerals, and they can help parents who may be a little more anxious at the start of their weaning journey.
However, you absolutely don’t HAVE to offer these as your baby’s first food, and they won’t be missing out on anything if you don’t baby rice. There are PLENTY of other options to start weaning with as you’ll see below.
Can I mix baby rice or porridge together with other foods?
One of the slight drawbacks of offering baby rice or baby porridge to your baby, is that it doesn’t offer much in the way of variety of flavour or texture – both of which are really important for young babies and at the start of weaning. It’s not ideal in those first days and weeks of weaning to offer the same foods to babies over multiple days, as variety really is key – especially in those first few weeks and months.
If you do choose to start your weaning journey with baby rice or porridge, a great way to use it up and still build in plenty of variety, is to mix baby rice together with other foods e.g. blending or mashing it with some cooked veggies (or fruits) to introduce new flavours to your baby early on.
You can also stir some of the allergens in to baby rice or baby porridge e.g. nut butters and mashed egg as a great and easy way to first offer them to baby. Read more about introducing allergens when weaning.
What should my baby’s first food be?
There is NO perfect food to start weaning with. As with everything, all babies are different and it really is up to YOU what you decide to offer your baby first. However, I am a big fan of the “veg-led weaning” method. This means offering savoury vegetables to babies at the start of their weaning journey.
I’ve written in detail about WHY veg-led weaning can be helpful for babies. To summarise, babies are born with a preference for sweet foods, and breast milk and formula are sweet-tasting. Babies therefore don’t need any additional “help” to accept these foods, whereas they may need a little extra time to get used to more bitter, savoury flavours. There is also research that shows that babies are most accepting to new flavours before around the age of 10 months, meaning it’s key to expose them to those new flavours early on.
However, you start weaning, it all comes back to variety. That includes both variety of flavours and textures. Moving through textures when weaning is really important to help your baby develop the skills needed for eating.
For plenty more practical advice on HOW to start weaning, along with recipes, my book How To Wean Your Baby is available. I also have an Online Weaning Course which covers EVERYTHING you need to know about weaning, in video format, with factsheets and live Q&As with me!