Oatmeal is an excellent food for babies who have started eating solids. The grain is rich in essential nutrients such as fiber, proteins, and vitamins (1). Oats are good for babies, but what is the right age for introducing it? Also, can a baby be allergic to oats? Here, MomJunction answers these questions and tells you more about the benefits of oatmeal for babies.
But before we go deep into the details, it is essential to understand the basic difference between oats and oatmeal. Oats are whole grains, while oatmeal is the processed form of oats with the hull removed. Oatmeal is what we get in the market in several variations.
When Can Babies Have Oatmeal?
You can give oatmeal to a baby at the age of six months (2). However, you may introduce the same at the age of four months after consulting your pediatrician. The doctor will check for the signs of readiness, post which the baby will be given the go-ahead to start solids. If this happens, you can check with your doctor and introduce oats.
Health Benefits Of Oats For Babies
Your baby may enjoy the following health benefits with an oats diet:
- Provides nourishment to babies with gluten allergy: Babies allergic to gluten cannot consume grains like wheat, rye, and barley that provide essential nutrition. But they can eat oats, which are gluten-free and have the same vitamins and minerals that essential grains do. Oatmeal helps improve the nutritional value of a gluten-free diet, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies in babies (3).
- Aids in constipation: Since oats are rich in fiber, they could help tackle constipation. Medical experts recommend making oats a part of the diet when the individual has constipation, and this suggestion works even for infants (4).
- Good for immunity: Oats contain a type of sugar called beta-glucans that is considered to boost the production of immune system cells. So, regular consumption of oats could keep the immune system healthy, which is an advantage for a growing baby (5).
- Might help reduce inflammation: Oats contain compounds called avenanthramides that may help reduce the inflammation caused due to multiple reasons, including infections and wounds. Infants having some auto-immune diseases may benefit from the anti-inflammatory properties of oats (6).
- Improves insulin sensitivity: Infants born with congenital type-1 diabetes may benefit from oats consumption as the grain could possibly reduce insulin resistance. It means the body uses injected insulin better, reducing the effect of diabetes (7).
- Vital food for babies with GERD: One of the treatment options for infants with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) involves giving them solid food in the form of thicker purees. Oatmeal is considered a safe and healthy means of thickening food for such babies (8).
Oats that are processed to remove the hull or cover are referred to as oatmeal. This is what we get in the market. But this oatmeal is of several types.
Types Of Oatmeal
1. Rolled oats
The picture that comes to your mind when you think of oats is probably that of rolled oats. Rolled oats are oat flakes derived from whole oat grain. They are made by steaming dehulled (without skin) oat grains and then running them through a roller before drying. Rolled oats come in two varieties: slow-cooking and fast-cooking oats.
2. Coarse oat flour
Whole oat grain, and not refined oat grain, is pounded to form a coarse flour that is packed with fiber. An infant oat cereal mix is quite likely to contain oat flour since it mixes well with hot water.
3. Instant oats
This is the most processed type of oats. The oat grain is boiled, rolled, and then dried before packaging. Instant oats are semi-cooked and are usually found in the ready-to-eat baby cereals that can be prepared just by adding hot or boiling water.
4. Dehulled whole oat grain
If instant oats are most processed, then whole oat grains are the least. Dehulled whole oat grain, also called whole oat groat, is raw oats in their purest form, with 100% of their nutritional value intact.
5. Steel-cut oatmeal
Whole oat grains that are cut into small bits by powerful steel blades are called steel-cut oats. They contain the same nutritional value of whole oat grains but cook faster since the grain is broken into smaller pieces.
After realizing that there are a variety of oats, we know what you are thinking.
Which Is The Best Type Of Oatmeal For The Baby?
Steel-cut oatmeal is the best for babies since they are unprocessed, and retain all the nutrients of whole oats (11). You can use steel-cut oatmeal in various baby food recipes as per your convenience.
How To Select And Store Oats For Babies?
Selecting oats: When selecting steel-cut oats or standard infant oat cereal, look for options with no added preservatives, sugar, salt, and flavoring.
Storage: Place the jar of oats in a cool, dry place. Just like any other grain, oats can be susceptible to pest infestation. Make sure you keep the storage area clean and use anti-pest measures. Avoid anti-pest tablets or sachets since they can harm the baby.
Purchase smaller quantities that you can consume within a short period. If you intend to store oats for an extended duration, then place it in an airtight container or Ziplock pouch and put it in the freezer. The low humidity and low-temperature environment in the freezer prevent the oats from becoming soggy while keeping pests at bay.
How To Process Oats For Babies?
Here is how you can cook rolled oats/infant oatmeal and steel-cut oats:
Cooking rolled oats/infant oatmeal for a baby
- Let the oats soak in water for a minute.
- Cook them for 10-15 minutes or as per the time recommended on the packet.
- Add more water or milk to adjust the consistency.
- Cool and blend the cooked oats to prepare an oatmeal porridge for the baby.
Cooking steel-cut oats for babies
Steel-cut oats are whole grains and thus require additional cooking time.
- Boil the steel-cut oats for ten minutes and let them soak in boiled water overnight (11-12 hours).
- In the morning, boil the oats again, this time for 15-20 minutes on a medium flame.
- Keep stirring so that they cook evenly.
- Once cooked, let the oats cool. Blend to make porridge.
- You can use milk instead of water and follow the same preparation process.
In addition to having them with milk, oats can be combined with several other foods to make delicious oats baby food recipes.
Oats Baby Food Combinations
Oats taste the best when combined with the following food items:
- Milk is often the leading choice to go with oats. You can make a delicious porridge by cooking oats with milk.
- Nearly all types of fruits taste good with oats. Fruits, such as a banana with naturally sweet pulp, go well with oats.
- Boil finely chopped vegetables with oats to make savory porridge for a baby.
- Meat can be combined with oats in the same way as vegetables. You can make a delicious meat oat porridge using just oats, meat, and water.
- Oats can also be combined with yogurt to form smoothies for babies; it is a perfect combination of a pre-probiotic meal for your baby.
Oats taste great with nearly all foods, which means that they can be a part of your baby’s diet. But allergies are always a concern when introducing new foods to babies.
Can A Baby Be Allergic To Oats?
A baby can be allergic to oats, but the chances are few. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that oats are less likely than the other grains, such as wheat or rye, to cause an allergy, and thus, they are safe to be included it a baby’s diet (12).
However, if your baby is allergic to oats, then they will display symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, skin hives, abdominal pain, lethargy, and swelling of the face.
An extreme manifestation of food allergy is food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES), where symptoms like vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea are severe (13). Take your baby to the doctor right away if you suspect he is showing signs of a food allergy.
How To Prepare Oatmeal Cereal For Baby?
Below are some recipes you may try for your baby, depending on their age.
Oatmeal for a 4-month-old
Starting solids for a four-month-old baby is a decision that you need to take after consulting your pediatrician. This will happen only if your baby shows certain signs of development that are mandatory to start solids (14). Once you get a go-ahead, you can try the following:
Oats porridge recipe
What you need:
- ½ cup organic rolled oats
- Water (as needed)
- Take a blender and put half a cup of oats into it.
- Boil enough water in a saucepan. Add the oats to it by whisking gently.
- Let it cook well. Stir occasionally.
- Once cooked, allow it to cool and serve.
This is the simplest way to introduce oats to your baby. Once you feel the baby is accustomed to its taste, you can try adding fruit and vegetable purees to oatmeal. You can also add breastmilk and formula milk to this recipe. However, be watchful of signs of allergies and intolerance, if any.
Oatmeal For 6-Month-Old
Once the baby is six months old, their digestive system is relatively developed. They can be introduced to a variety of fruits, vegetables, and cereals to get optimum nutrients. Thus, now is the time that the oatmeal recipe can be prepared more elaborately. A few options that you could try for your baby are oatmeal pancakes, oatmeal upma, oatmeal dessert, and oatmeal smoothie.
Oats upma recipe
What you need:
- 1 cup organic rolled oats
- 1 cup vegetables (carrots, capsicum, peas, onion, and tomato)
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- Oil for sautéing
- Salt (to taste)
- Water (as needed)
- Take a pan and pour one teaspoon of oil in it.
- Put the pan on medium heat and let the oil get heated.
- Once the oil is heated, add cumin seeds and let them crackle.
- Now add all the diced vegetables in the pan and sauté them.
- As the vegetables are half cooked, add oats and water in the pan while stirring the mix continuously.
- At this point, put the pan on low flame and keep stirring the mix. Add salt to taste.
- After 2-3 minutes, cover the pan with a lid and let the oats cook for 5-7 minutes.
- Once cooked, allow it to cool and serve.
You can customize the recipe as per your baby’s likes and dislikes. These recipes are ideal to be served at breakfast or lunch. There are many other yummy oats recipes that you can try for your baby. These recipes are not only healthy but also sumptuous enough to keep your baby full for longer.
Have a few more questions on giving oats to your baby? Read on.
Frequently Asked Questions About Oats For Babies
1. Is oatmeal better than rice cereal for babies?
Yes. Oatmeal contains more fiber than rice cereal and is thus good for digestion. Some babies may develop constipation when fed only rice cereal. Pediatric experts see oatmeal as a promising alternative to rice cereal to relieve constipation in babies (15).
2. Should I prefer organic oats over regular oats?
Yes, you may choose organic oats over regular oats. Oats are not among the list of foods most contaminated with pesticides, although they may contain traces of pesticides (16). Therefore, purchasing organic variants is always a good idea.
3. How often should I feed oatmeal cereal to my baby?
You can add a few tablespoons of oatmeal to your baby’s solid diet every day. The quantity of oatmeal entirely depends on your personal preference. Three to four tablespoons of oats every day can provide adequate fiber and nutrition to a growing infant.
4. Does oatmeal cereal generate gas in babies?
No. There is no scientific evidence to say that oatmeal can lead to gassy babies.
Oats are packed with nutrients and have fewer chances of causing allergies even among babies eating solid food for the first time. The quantity of fiber and special sugars in oats is higher than that in other grains, which makes oatmeal more nutritious. Make oats a part of your little one’s diet to support their growth and development.
Do you include oatmeal in your baby’s diet? Share your experience with us in the comments section below.
2. Starting Solids For Infants; Framingham State College
3. T. A Kemppainen et al.; Nutrient intakes during diets including unkilned and large amounts of oats in celiac disease; Nature Research
4. Constipation; University of California San Francisco
5. Rondanelli M et al.; The biological activity of beta-glucans; National Center For Biotechnology Information (2009)
6. The Search for Foods that Soothe; Tufts Now
7. Zhou AL et al.; Whole grain oats improve insulin sensitivity and plasma cholesterol profile and modify gut microbiota composition in C57BL/6J mice.; National Center For Biotechnology Information (2015)
8. Oatmeal: The Safer Alternative for Infants & Children Who Need Thicker Food; Healthy Children; American Academy of Pediatrics
9. Oats; The Nutrition Source; Harvard T.H. Chan
10. Health Benefits of Oatmeal; Dairy Council of California
11. Why Steel Cut Oats?; Center For Applied Nutrition; UMASS Medical School
12. Common Food Allergies; Healthy Children; American Academy of Pediatrics
13. If Allergic to One Food, Do You Have to Avoid Related Foods?; Kids With Foods Allergies
14. Starting Solid Foods; Healthy Children; American Academy of Pediatrics
15. Constipation: Infant; Nationwide Children’s
16. FDA Tests Confirm Oatmeal, Baby Foods Contain Residues of Monsanto Weed Killer; U.S Right To Know