The last time I reviewed a baby rice cereal, I copped some interesting comments from those opposed to using this as a first food. But, I also received several emails asking me to review other brands of rice cereals. As a paediatric dietitian (who supports both puree and baby-led weaning approaches to introducing solids) I am happy to recommend rice cereal as a first food and so I’ll happily review today’s brand. But, if you would prefer not to use rice cereal, then you are absolutely entitled to do that! These reviews are just meant to give you some more info about common food products so that you can make up your own mind for your own family. Today’s Chewsday Review features Farex Baby Rice Cereal (and the review is very similar to that of the Rafferty’s Garden Rice Cereal for you avid readers out there!).
🔹Ground rice (97%), sunflower oil, vitamin C, antioxidant, mineral iron
🔹Common allergens include: traces of milk, wheat and soy
🔹This product provides a good amount of iron, which is critical for a baby's brain and immune system development. I talk in detail about iron here. At about 6 months of age, babies no longer have sufficient iron stores, and breastmilk or infant formula can no longer provide enough iron for their growing bodies. In fact, a baby's requirements for iron are higher between 7-12 months than they are during later childhood. A 5g serving of this cereal mixed with 40mL of water provides 10% of a baby's iron requirements. Given that babies only ingest very little food as they are introduced to solids (via BLW or purée), this is an easy option.
🔹No added sugar or salt, meaning it's pretty much just rice and iron.
🔹Meets healthy guidelines for fat, sugar and salt.
🔹Rice cereal is bland and smooth, which can be helpful to teach babies about swallowing solids at the beginning of their food journey. However, reliance on such plain food may make it difficult for your baby to learn about new tastes and textures, so it's important to introduce this along with other foods.
🔹The iron content is not as high as Rafferty’s Garden rice cereal. However, it is somewhat difficult to compare these products because the nutrition information is specific to the way it is prepared. Farex suggests 5g with 2tbsp of water and Rafferty’s Garden suggests 10g with 2tbsp of water. This means that Rafferty’s is effectively double the amount of cereal (so you’d expect more iron), and will have a thicker consistency (which doesn’t suit all bubs).
🔹There's been a bit of hysteria about arsenic levels in rice products recently. In a quick summary, rice can absorb arsenic (a heavy metal) from soil/water (where arsenic naturally occurs or occurs from pollution). Some areas in the world (e.g. Bangladesh) have higher levels of arsenic contamination than others, but the levels occurring in Australian foods (including rice) are relatively low. Our Food Standards organisation reviews these levels and has indicated no need for concern if your baby eats a range of foods. So, as per the point above- offer a variety of foods and don't just rely on rice cereal.
🔹For bubs with allergies, this is only guaranteed to be egg and yeast free, unlike Rafferty’s Garden which is free from most of the common food allergens. This is not important to babies with no history of allergies, however, is important for those who have been on special formula for allergies.
🔹The rice cereal packet states that it is suitable for babies 4+ months of age. I would VERY rarely see 4 month olds who are developmentally ready for solids, so don't feel like you need to feed this to your 4 month old just because of this statement.
🔹The nutrition information panel states that one serving of this cereal meets 37% of the iron RDI, yet I've told you above that it meets 10%. Say what?! Well, there’s a little asterisk to say that it meets 37% of requirements for infants YOUNGER than 6 months- and that's because their needs are much lower than older infants who have used up their iron stores. This is in very fine print and I think quite misleading! (I also don’t know how they calculated the 37% because it doesn’t correlate with any Australian guidelines!!)
🔹No added colours, flavours or preservatives. True.
🔹No added sugar or salt. Also true.
🔹From a dietetic perspective, I think this is a good option to include as a first food because it's a ready source of iron, which is the most important nutrient in the first 6 months of solid food.
🔹To alter the taste and texture, feel free to mix with other foods like fruit or veggies- which will have an added benefit of higher iron absorption thanks to the presence of vitamin C. If you're intent on baby-led weaning without offering purée, then you could use this cereal to replace a small amount of flour in pikelet/muffin style foods, or buy a self-feeding spoon for your bub to practice with.
🔹I would also suggest mixing with breastmilk or formula, instead of water, to add more nutrients to the rice cereal.
🔹I'd also recommend moving to other high-iron foods as your baby develops the skills e.g. Puréed meat, slow cooked meat, lentils, fish, Weet-bix.
About Mealtime Building Blocks
Dr Kyla Smith is a paediatric dietitian specialising in fussy eating, feeding difficulties and childhood nutrition. Lauren Pike is an occupational therapist working in fussy eating and feeding difficulties. They have a private practice called Mealtime Building Blocks in Perth, Western Australia. You can connect with Kyla and Lauren on their website and sign up for their newsletter, and the Facebook page or on the Instagram page.