Should I add rice cereal to my baby’s bottle to make her sleep longer?

It seems like moms and dads are always wondering what they can do to make a baby sleep for longer stretches during the nights. One of the questions I hear often is: Should I add rice cereal to a bottle of expressed breastmilk to make my baby sleep longer? The answer to this is no. You should never add rice cereal to a baby’s bottle.

The amylase (a digestive enzyme) in breastmilk breaks down the rice.  This breakdown shifts the balance of nutrients in the breastmilk and increases the caloric content in the milk. The shift of nutrients can decrease gut motility (the food moving through the digestive tract), increase constipation, and can decrease hydration.

The next question I usually get is, “Ok, I won’t add it to the breastmilk. What if I just give my 4 month old rice cereal with a spoon before bed?”

Again, I don’t recommend giving rice cereal in hopes of getting a few extra hours of sleep. Prior to 6 months, a baby’s gut is not mature enough to digest solid foods.  The introduction of rice cereal can cause a decrease in gut motility and cause constipation. Breastmilk is all a baby should eat prior to 6 months old.

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