Many parents add cereal to their baby's bottle to encourage the baby to sleep through the night. However, cereal should not be added to a baby's bottle unless directed by a doctor, due to reflux. Cereal does not actually help the baby sleep through the night, and it may increase the chance of allergies or obesity. Choking can also occur if the baby is not developmentally ready for solid foods.
There are certain signs that indicage when a baby is developmentally prepared for solid food. A baby who can turn his head away when he is full, or done eating, is more likely to be developmentally ready for solid foods. Before the baby is sitting up well on his own, and is able to hold his head up, you should not feed him cereal in a bottle or even on a spoon.
Once the baby is old enough to tolerate more solid foods, a pediatrician may advise adding a small amount of rice cereal to his bottle in order to thicken the formula or breastmilk. If your baby has reflux, the thickness of the milk or formula will keep it from flowing back up through her esophagus so easily.
Gastroesophageal reflux (also known as GER) is a condition that affects many babies, but typically resolves itself by their first birthday. In this condition, the muscles at the bottom of the esophagus do not work correctly. These muscles, which are supposed to keep the food in the stomach and allow gas to return up to be released through the mouth, allow your baby's milk or formula to escape back up through his mouth as well.
Babies with reflux experience frequent spitting up, as well as vomiting and coughing, feeding problems, bloody stool and irritability. More severe, but less common symptoms include poor growth, blood loss and refusal to eat. All of these symptoms should be evaluated by a pediatrician, since the symptoms could also be the result of other conditions. Adding cereal to your baby's bottle will provide a thicker consistency that prevents the loss of nutrients due to frequent spitting up or vomiting.
If your pediatrician advises you to add rice cereal to your baby's bottle, she will also provide guidance as to the amount of cereal to give, and the frequency of meals. In general, you should give your baby small, but frequent, meals. Too much cereal and milk at once can aggravate the problem, and cause additional reflux. The appropriate ratio for the mix is approximately 1 tbsp. of rice cereal for every 2 oz. of milk or formula. Mix the cereal into the liquid thoroughly before you give it to your baby, to make sure there aren't any clumps.