Rice cereal is typically the first food that experts recommend that you feed your baby because it is the least likely to trigger an allergic reaction.
The second big reason is that commercial baby cereal is fortified with iron, and beginning around six months, especially if they are breastfeeding, babies need an extra source of iron.
A commercial dry baby cereal, such as the Gerber single grain Rice Cereal for Baby has about 5 mg of iron in every 4 Tablespoon serving of dry cereal -- but maybe less depending on how much breast milk, formula, or water you mix with the dry cereal. In addition to the green vegetables and meats that your baby will eventually eat, an iron-fortified baby cereal is a great way to make sure she is getting enough iron in her diet without having to actually give her an extra vitamin or supplement.
Homemade Baby Cereal
On the other hand, homemade baby cereal is not going to have very much iron in it at all. In general, unfortified brown and white rice is actually rather low in iron.
Even enriched rice doesn't come close to approaching the amount of iron in an iron fortified baby cereal. For example, one brand of enriched long grain white rice has 15% daily value or daily iron requirements of iron per cup of cooked rice. That comes to about 3 mg of iron per cup (18 mg equals 100% iron requirements for an adult on a nutrition facts label) or less than 1 mg for the 3 or 4 Tablespoons that your baby will likely eat.
That isn't to say that you can't make and feed your baby your own homemade baby cereal. Just keep in mind that it is likely not a good source of iron for your baby and you may either need to give your baby a vitamin with iron or other high iron foods.
Iron-rich baby foods will usually include:
- egg yolks