Ep 127 – Rice Cereal: a cautionary tale
This is Maureen Farrell and Heather ONeal and this is The Milk Minute. We’re midwives and lactation professionals bringing you the most up-to-date evidence for all things lactation. So you can feel more confident about feeding your baby, body positivity, relationships, and mental health. Plus, we laugh a little or a lot along the way. So join us for another episode.
Welcome back to the Milk Minute podcast friends. Hey everybody. We’re here today and we, well, I have a special topic for you, Heather. Tell me. It’s a surprise for me today. It is. So we’ve been talking about doing this episode for a long time and every time we talked about it, we were like, no, we don’t wanna do it.
That’s so much, it’s a can of worms. It’s a lot of stuff. Anyway, yesterday when I was looking at the topics we planned, this one randomly sounds good. And I did it. So we’re talking about rice cereal today. Oh, Snap. Granny’s be popping off everywhere. If you’re coming after their rice cereal. That’s what I had for breakfast. I meant rice cereal.
They, they really are though, because every article that I read about this, like there were like 20 comments from boomers being like, I fed it to all my kids. Anyway. What I found out when I was looking into this is there is a lot more information than I could include in an hour-ish. And I also realized after making my outline that the questions you have about it might not be the questions I had about it.
So I might have to say, I don’t know, a bunch. That’s okay. I mean, it’s better than nothing. Yeah. So this might be a good primer and we might have to revisit it after you ask me all the questions I don’t know. Okay. Sounds good. I mean, you know me, I’ll always try to poke holes in the research you work so hard on.
I feel like sometimes Heather, you ask a question that when you say it was just so blaringly obvious and then I can’t believe I didn’t look for the answer and I’m just like, shit. Like, I just appreciate you taking the lead on this one. I really do. Yeah. I actually weirdly had fun with it anyway. But before we get into rice cereal for infants let’s do a little quick, thank you to some of our wonderful patrons.
Yes. And patrons just new update, $5 a month, tier patrons, and up get early and ad free episodes on the platform. Yes. So if you want more of us, and you want us early and you don’t wanna hear us try to sell things cuz I feel like we’re kind of bad at it. Yeah. Well, I don’t know. I think, you know, so I actually kind of like commercials.
I think they’re funny, but a lot of people hate them and find them distracting. So if you do, you can. Five bucks a month, that’s it. You can give us five bucks a month, which goes straight to our production and audio and transcription. Yeah. And you get early access. So like when all your friends are listening on a Friday, you can be like, I heard that on Monday.
Yeah, that’s right bitches. And then also friendly reminder that we do both do lactation consults mm-hmm and the links are in the show notes of every episode. Yes. Okay. So big, big, thank you to Julie N from upstate New York, Keely Seal, Becky from Philadelphia and Laura Haven as some of our new patrons.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you too much. Thank you. Thank you. So we have a question from one of our patrons that I wanna start out with today, and she’s a local from Morgantown. This is from Brittany Jarrett. About a month ago. I stopped breastfeeding after almost two years, I can tell changes are happening in my breast tissue is returning to a more normal quote state.
With that I’ve had odd sensations in my breast and lots of discomfort I would relate to occasional lightning bolts all over. No signs or symptoms of mastitis. I’m assuming it’s related to cellular changes happening, but was wondering if you all, or any of your clients had experienced this, is it normal? Am I going crazy?
Thanks again for the podcast. It’s truly so enjoyable. Okay. Funny story. I went down a Google rabbit hole about this a few months ago, after seeing a video on Facebook or something where someone like it was like, oh yeah, something men don’t know is just your boobs randomly hurt. And I was like, what?
Hmm, dude, that’s never happened to me. And then like thousands of comments were like, oh yeah, the random lightning bolts. And I was like, what? It’s happened to me for sure. Yeah. But like I’m used to being reported vaso spasms for lactating people. But I was like, I don’t think I’ve really experienced that without lactating.
Turns out it is one of the most widely reported breast complaints just for people with boobs, for people who are chest feeding for people who are weaned for people who have never lactated at all. Part of this maybe is attributed to hormonal fluctuation, especially from your menstrual cycle. Right?
Part of it is attributed to vasospasms. Part of it is attributed to incorrect bra size, breast cysts, fibrocystic breasts, fibro adenomas, blah, blah, blah. Everywhere I looked there were like 20 possible benign causes and no real way to figure that out. Hmm. And I was like, cool. So I guess one more thing that we just don’t actually have research on.
I just assumed that my boobs randomly hurt because I have implants. Also possible, you know, like it’s just taking up too much space in there and pushing on stuff and like nerve stretching. I mean, yeah. The lightning bolt pain is most likely nerve pain. Right. I would say, if you have like a sore spot or your breasts feel heavy and sore, that’s usually like the fibrous cysts mm-hmm.
And that’s usually the one that’s related to your menstrual cycle. So I would say, just start tracking it, you know, if it lines up at a specific time of the month, most likely hormonal. Yeah. If it’s more of like a shooting pain that happens extremely randomly, that’s not tied up with your cycle, it could be a bra fit or it could be postural too, yeah, it could be, you just need a chiropractic adjustment.
Or after two years of breastfeeding, I almost guarantee you’ve got some of those intense knots right under your shoulder blade that probably need to be rolfed out by a masseuse. Oh yeah. My brother-in-law’s a rolfer is he? Yeah. Wouldn’t it be funny if his name was. I wished he lived closer. If his name was Ralph and he was a Rolfer. It’s not. It’s Billy. Billy the Rolfer. That’s funny. Yeah, I wish they lived closer, cuz that would be a nice service to have. Well, Brittany, I hope that helps you.
Yeah, I did. Sorry. I did wanna mention before we move on if you notice new lumps on your chest or have like real chest pain or shortness of breath accompanied with that, then reach out to your doctor. Otherwise it’s quote normal. Yeah. Shortness of breath in general just reach out to your doctor. Yes.
Always. also new lumps, you know? Yeah, yeah. Separate, but you know, either separate or together, maybe. Really? Yeah. Those are, those are red flags. If you feel like you can’t breathe, you should get that checked out. Mm-hmm awesome. Well let’s take like a little break quick and then we’ll come back and start talking about rice.
All right. Take this minute to breathe through our commercial break and then prepare yourself mentally for rice cereal.
All right. It’s Maureen here. And I want to tell you that I have finally set up a link so you can instantly book virtual lactation consults with me. Thank the Lord. I know Heather, it took me a long time to take the leap from in person visits to virtual, but I did it. You’re gonna love it. I love doing virtual consults.
They are the best. It serves more people. I’m so glad you took the plunge. Thank you. And if you guys out there wanna book some time with me, you can go to HighlandBirthSupport.com and then click on my lactation services tab. Is that H I G H L A N D? Yes. Okay. I will see you on zoom everybody.
All right, Maureen. So what is up with infant cereal? Where did this come from and why are people so emotionally attached to it? Yeah, I have answers for your questions right now. Okay. So finely ground grains mixed with warm water has been a traditional infant food for like thousands of years among cultures, right?
Lots of cultures. And it makes sense. You know, grains have been a staple in a lot of diets. We’re gonna be grinding these finely and making kind of like a gruel for babies, you know? Mm yeah. Makes sense. But at that time, through most of human history we’ve been using what you would now call locally grown, whole grains.
Mm-hmm. That were processed either in your home or your community. Farm to table infant cereal. Right. This is not your grandma’s rice cereal. So. The whole concept of infant cereal in general is not a bad thing. Like grains are really nutritious. They can be an absolutely wonderful staple to your diet and processing them in a way that it’s easy for your baby to eat them, also not a bad thing.
And I don’t, there’s nothing wrong with rice either. Right? Globally. So many people have rice as their staple grain. And I’m gonna preface the rest of what I’m saying by mentioning that this is mainly gonna be focused on the processed rice cereal of Western culture, like American and American societies America, Europe specifically.
May I interrupt already? Yes. So why did you choose to focus on rice when there’s also oatmeal and barley? Let me tell you about that. One, because it’s the big controversy, right? The rice cereal and bottle thing, like it’s mostly about rice and it is the most mass produced baby food grain.
Okay. Okay. So what the heck am I even talking about now? If I’m not talking about the stuff I just mentioned. So with the rise of the European industrial revolution. Yes. We’re going back there. and the mass production of infant formula, see Episode 19. Yeah. It’s 19 where we talk about the history of formula and it’s a pretty good one.
Yes. So too, with this came, the concept of store bought baby food. Yes. It’s that new. 20th century. Wow. Okay. So if you listened to episode 19, you will remember when we talked about aggressive marketing and how harmful that was. And that is basically the story of rice cereal and baby food.
Also quick aside. This kind of stuff is still aggressively marketed. Yeah. And they break the rules constantly. Every day. I see it every day, every store. They are actually not allowed to put anything on the label that says close to breast milk mm-hmm or similar to breast milk, because it’s just not. And yeah, they’re not allowed to mention it’s comparison to breast milk at all.
It’s an alternative. They’re not supposed to say that because that’s considered manipulative marketing if you’re comparing it to another food source that way. Then there’s an implication that one is better and blah, blah, blah. Anyway it’s really complicated, but I think that law is important.
And let me tell you another story why marketing laws are important. This food was aggressively marketed as superior to both human milk and formula. Oh, okay. Prior to the early 20th century, it was standard to wait until about a year of age to begin solid foods for baby. And we talked about this in our weaning episode, it was even recommended in a lot of Western cultures to avoid fruits and vegetables until age two.
Oh yeah. So this was like, people were not buying baby food and feeding it to their little babies. They were breastfeeding or formula feeding really, as long as they could. Now with the industrialization of food supplies came the industrialization of infant food in general. And so first there was this interesting story about like, quote, like the first marketed baby food or whatever, where this guy, like his wife was sick and he made a vegetable broth for his babies and they thrived on it.
So he was like, I’m gonna sell it. I don’t know. It’s a weird story to me. It kind of feels like glamorizing. Wait, I just, can I, so when you just said that, I imagine a dad that feels like he needs to be congratulated every time he does one chore that the mom does every single day and then turns it into like this big public service announcement.
Like hear ye hear ye, I once made one food for my baby and it didn’t die. Yeah. Now everyone needs to do what I do. Snaps for Gary. That’s exactly what it felt like reading this. And a lot of the articles were kind of like glamorizing that. And I was like, question mark. I don’t feel comfortable with that.
Everyone’s giving Gary a gold star. You finally figured out how to one up a, a lactating parent. Good job, Gary. But anyway, of course it wasn’t long before larger food companies were like, what a great idea! Let’s do that. Gerber, the food giant picked that up real quick. So basically they were like, Hey, this is portable, convenient, very safe, safer than anything you’ll make at home. Safer than formula safer than baby food.
They took this marketing to a whole new level to overcome fear that actually Americans had about spoiled and contaminated canned food from the past, like 20, 30, 40 years. There have been a lot of instances of people being poisoned by like botulism and canned food. Sure. Right. So Gerber was like, we have to overcome that.
So we’re just gonna tell you this is the best food ever. Well, if you give it to a baby, it’s gotta be safe for everyone. Right. So they targeted parents, but also dieticians and pediatricians with their marketing, sending samples to offices. Their ad campaign included research funded by Gerber that praise the benefits of all canned food and specifically baby food.
Now let me say, if we see research that is funded by the company, that it benefits that is always like a red flag. Now. If it’s done recently, right? Like say it was done in 2021. We have mechanisms to look at that research and be like, is this high quality? Right. In 1920, we were still doing research like on unconsenting inmates and on children who had no idea.
They were part of research studies and on prisoners of war, you know. Yeah. There were not regulations and checks and balances in place to make sure scientific research was actually done ethically or done well. Yeah. Also, I’m just really stuck on the fact that they’re like, it’s portable and convenient and you’re like, so is breast milk.
Yeah. Well, and this was like supposed to replace baby food made at home basically more than anything cuz everybody made their baby food at home prior to this. Okay. So their ads included messaging to convince parents that homemade baby food was unsafe and irresponsible to feed your babies.
Well, yeah, that’s how they get you. If you put fear out there and you drop that in the parent’s ear, they’re of course gonna be like, well, I mean, if there’s a risk at all that I could be the one that harms my baby, I will gladly pass that responsibility off to a company. Certainly the company’s gonna do their due diligence and make sure my baby has the best.
Yeah. And it definitely, you know, that kind of advertising implied too, that like that’s something poor people do. That’s something terrible parents do. Like you are not a good parent if you do that. They also had another area of advertising that they would put in like women’s magazines that were basically like, this is freeing for the mother.
Just toss a jar in your purse, leave the house. Now you can get to work. Now you can, you know, be industrious and independent. Mm-hmm. Yeah, barf. Thank you for your help. It’s not this ridiculous corset or the fact that I’m not allowed to go to work. Yeah. I need to be free and independent within the confines of my own kitchen, but don’t make the food in the kitchen, please.
Yeah, we also had this really, there’s this interesting intersection that at that time in history where it was just becoming normalized and idealized for parents to rely on pediatric advice for infant feeding and infant rearing, rather than cultural or generational knowledge, you know, this is intertwined.
Big immigration moves like people being separated from their cultures and families. So it gets really complicated, right? Yeah. But isn’t it also the time that your pediatrician was like the local doctor? Mm-hmm, you know, there was like that guy. You know, which is almost kind of better in a way, because at least it’s like, that person knows all of your kids, the entire, you’d be able to see like a neighborhood of people would all be sick if so one pediatrician was giving bad advice everywhere.
Right? Yeah but like where were the checks and balances for that, that were out there? Like practicing in a vacuum? Yeah. So we have Gerber, like sending samples of baby food, including rice cereal, but this is just in general, to pediatricians being like feed, tell everyone to feed this to their babies.
And so when that happened, the age of introducing solids dropped dramatically, right? From a year to as little as 24 hours, some doctors were being like, you should put, give your baby rice cereal at 24 hours old. Most parents ended up introducing purees at four to six weeks old. Mm-hmm. And this food was advertised as like strong and healthy and better than a liquid diet, right?
Like think of the first Gerber baby drawing. Like it was like, you will have this cute chubby cherubic baby if you feed them Gerber foods as early as possible. Wow. So advancing even further in this weird cultural stuff. And I’m trying to give you this background so we understand like why grandma is so like fucking crazy about rice cereal because this is the world she grew up in, right.
Yeah. Like, and then, you know, we have all these wars happening, World War II, The Cold War, blah, blah, blah. And there was an idea that in the USA, we had to raise children who were strong and competitive, so they could fight in wars, which is something we don’t think about.
Right. It’s like not in our cultural just norm right now. And so basically the idea was like you were doing your child and your country a disservice and doing them harm if you didn’t introduce them to superior commercial baby food, as soon as possible. What? Crazy. And especially apparently that advertising was really intense during The Cold War.
Which is nuts because like, there was the impending threat of Russia. Like every male should be ready. Strong for your country. It was wild. And we had basically no scientific evidence that this was helpful or harmful until the 1970s. Well, also the sixties and seventies is where everything was being processed and dehydrated and put in boxes like the instant gravy and, you know, instead of making from like the gravy bacon fat that you kept in a dish above your stove that never even had a lid on it, it was like, oh, now it’s gonna be in a box and you microwave it.
Yeah, totally. So this is the context we’re operating in when we introduce rice cereal to the market. Okay. It was first mass produced to marketed in the 1930s and it was originally known as Pablum. Yeah. I don’t see the Pablum with that. Is that how you pronounce it? I don’t know. I feel like I’m saying that not right.
I’ve never heard anybody say it. Okay. Advertisers were urging parents to mix it into baby’s bottle for babies, like as young as, or younger than six weeks. The combination of Pablum and formula was marketed as the ideal first food for your baby. Ah, Wow. Yeah. So what were the, you might not know this, but when you were researching, did any of the ads mention what the expected benefits would be?
Yeah, it was basically like, you will have a happier baby who sleeps better and is stronger. See, this is where the sleep myth starts coming in. It, it is. Basically this recommendation had absolutely no scientific backing. It was not started by like a doctor. It was started by Gerber and it was exclusively pushed by the manufacturers to parents and pediatricians, right?
In a time when bottle feeding was extremely popular, breastfeeding rates were sharply declining and that was quickly being seen as like dirty, lower class, not something you should be doing. So adding this to baby’s bottle. Right. Parents are being told by their doctors that it would help their baby sleep through the night.
It would help them thrive. You know, basically you’re a terrible parent, if you’re not giving this. Like, don’t you want your baby to be happy? Well, and also when you’re very, very vulnerable in that postpartum state and you’re exhausted, and someone’s dangling sleep in front of your face. Yeah.
Like, oh, it’ll be so easy. You’re gonna get a good night’s sleep. Mm-hmm, you know, that’s so mean because it doesn’t really work like that. I mean, I’m sure you’ll tell me later in the episode, but, and also I just wanna say like, oh, it’ll make your baby fat and happy. This is where we start to see fat babies as healthier than leaner babies.
And I just like, then there’s this whole dichotomy between are formula fed babies fatter than breastfed babies? Yeah. Are breastfed babies fatter? And it’s like, before, prior to this, I bet they just didn’t even care. Yeah. It was just like, is your baby healthy and thriving? Oh, it’ll be more like, oh, they look just like their dad.
And not like, oh, look how chubby they are. They must be healthy cuz they’re chubby. I mean, and there is something to be said for that, I guess. But I mean, honestly it’s like the idolization of the Gerber baby did a lot of harm, right? Yeah. This like white, beautiful chubby ideal quote, you know baby, you know who the Gerber baby was, right?
No Jane Seymour. Oh weird. Yeah. You didn’t know that? No. Jane Seymour was the original Gerber baby. Oh, what a strange life. Yeah. Dr. Quinn medicine woman was the Gerber baby. That’s so funny. Yeah. So let that sink in. Anyway, so now I have set the stage for why grandma loves rice cereal because it was essentially shoved down mother’s throats, you know, when they were at their most vulnerable.
Shoved down baby’s throats, technically, and then they shoved it down babies’ throats. So I guess my biggest question is like, was it safe? Did we see any bad outcomes from this? Did anybody say oh, like we’ve seen some bad outcomes or were they just like, this crop of babies is just weird and unhealthy.
I have no idea what it is. Yeah. So unfortunately, like we don’t have data that is really, you know, easy to interpret. Right. But the short answer is no, it was not safe. No, it is not safe. We now know that adding rice cereal to a bottle is a major choking hazard. Yeah. And while it appears that really like a lot of babies did fine on these diets, they survived.
They are adults now, whatever. We also know that a lot of babies aspirated rice cereal and some of them died and some of them have like lifelong pulmonary issues and, you know, major complications. And we just also don’t actually know what the effect in the general population was when we fed babies like rice cereal and homemade formula exclusively.
Hmm. Like we don’t, we didn’t have a control population to, you know, collect data from and compare that to 50 years later. Mm-hmm. So we really can’t draw any conclusions from that, except that we know it is not, that specific mix at that time was really nothing like human milk. Well, and I mean, I can’t say that I’ve not done it in the PICU, for example.
Yeah. Like as a nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit, there are some kiddos that they will recommend rice cereal in a bottle for because they have such bad reflux. Yeah. I may get to that later. Oh, okay. But now I’m wondering, I’m like, have they changed that? Cuz I haven’t done that in years and years.
Yeah. I’ll talk about that in a little bit. But I just, I, what I’m saying is I’m sure some people that had babies in the PICU who received that treatment are like, well, they gave it to my baby and it really helped my baby and my baby was the most fragile. So it’ll definitely help your baby for sure. Okay.
Yeah. The, the other thing about adding cereal, basically indiscriminately to baby’s bottles too, is that it just, you know this, it allows them to ingest more calories. That’s why partially why people would do it in the NICU, but for your average baby, that just makes overeating the norm.
Right. Yeah, that’s a really important time where you’re like calibrating the baby’s full centers of their brain and you’re, you’re basically like setting their metabolism and trying to teach their body digestive timing and all of that. It’s really tricky to unpack. Once you start looking at the details, you’re like, this is too much. This is too much that everybody over 50 had this as their, yeah.
Okay. No. Anyway, so, so what changed, what changed from the gr and the, you know, traditional grains mixed with water to now? Like why, why am I concerned about rice cereal now and I’m not really concerned about traditional human baby food? And also, why are we talking about this in association with breastfeeding? Oh, gosh.
Yes. Okay. Let me see how I can unpack all that together right now. So what changed is that now we are refining and processing grains to make baby cereal in mass factories. In that process, we do remove a lot of nutrients and basically all the fiber. Fiber is really important in the food we eat. And that, you know, makes it more shelf stable and it makes it a more uniform food.
Right. But it also turns it into a much more like higher, highly glycemic food and you know, less nutritional for us. So like high sugar, less nutrients. Yeah. Basically. And then on top of that, so we have a food where we kind of took the grain and made it less good for us. And then we marketed as better. Then those grains had to be fortified because they were lacking in healthy fats and vitamin D and choline and iron and all of that.
So it’s like, they’ve tried to fix them. Well, it’s funny because when you see a label that says, Now fortified with vitamin D you think like, oh, it has extra vitamin D. And not really, no. What they’re saying is we, we took it out and then we put it back in. Right. And that’s just like a general problem with processed foods.
Right. And it also is a general problem that then those are the most available foods for a lot of people. Right. So where does like the poison come in? The arsenic. Remember a few years ago when the FDA had to get involved, because there was like a whole arsenic poisoning situation in all of the baby food.
Yeah. So here’s, what’s going on with that. Some plants essentially bioaccumulate elements of their environment. So for example, like mustard plants accumulate heavy metals at a higher concentration than are found in the soil around them. And you can use them for bioremediation. You can like plant them in soil, that’s contaminated and harvest them.
And you’re removing heavy metals. Turns out rice does this with arsenic. Sweet. And the kind of arsenic that we are very concerned about ingesting is inorganic arsenic, just to be clear. Rice is one of the highest arsenic containing foods, specifically inorganic arsenic. Partially because of that element of it, just accumulating it from the environment and partially because of how it’s grown, it’s grown in these fields essentially that have to get flooded.
So like any arsenic that’s in the water then gets deposited in the soil over and over. Yeah. And like some of the places that we farm are just terribly polluted places that we shouldn’t be growing food. And arsenic is naturally occurring of course. And it’s not harmful in small amounts. It’s, it’s always the concentration that we’re concerned about.
Right. And, you know, we get more than added to that naturally occurring arsenic from the chemicals we use on plants when we’re farming them too. And then just like general pollution, other chemicals as well. So anyway, rice cereal now accounts for about 55% of infant arsenic exposure in babies between four to 24 months.
Hmm. I wonder what the other exposure. Oh, just rice cereal. Yes. Hold on. Let’s say that one more time. Sorry, just rice cereal accounts for 55% of infant arsenic exposure. Yes. Just rice cereal, not rice, just rice cereal. Okay. They actually, there’s some interesting stuff about that. I have in a second. But the FDA says that rice intake for infants, primarily through rice infant cereal is about three times greater than for adults relative to body weight.
So infants ingest a ton more of this than adults do. In fact, people eat the most rice relative to their body weight at approximately eight months of age. Oh, sweet. Like right when your brain is developing. Exactly. And that is a big concern with arsenic ingestion is brain development. So there was this 2016 study from the JAMA pediatrics, J A M A.
I don’t know if people actually say it like Jamma, but I always do. Yeah. It’s more fun that way, when you’re reading research. Found that babies who were fed rice cereal and other rice snacks had a higher and measurable concentration of arsenic in their urine, as opposed to babies who were fed no rice.
Now with the highest concentration in urine was the babies who consumed the processed rice cereal. Those who ate just the rice snacks only had about double the arsenic level of the babies who had not eaten rice. And let me say the rice snacks are also processed rice stuff. It’s like the baby teething crackers, the puffs.
Yeah, exactly. So this is not people just eating rice. This is all like processed rice. At the time of the study, they found that by age one, 80% of babies had been introduced to rice cereal. Mm-hmm. And here’s a quote. It said, “Emerging epidemiologic evidence suggests that arsenic exposure in utero and during early life may be associated with adverse health effects on the immune system and brain development specifically.”
Well, that’s not gonna help us get stronger as a country for any war. Yeah. Gerber was wrong. Shocker. Not long after that study was published, the FDA then proposed their first limit on arsenic in baby food. Oh, they had never before had one. They tested over 76 samples of infant rice cereal from retail stores and found that more than half of them contained levels of inorganic arsenic that were higher than the proposed limit of a hundred parts per billion.
Oh Lord. So that’s concerning, right? So that’s concerning. Yeah, it is concerning. And I just wonder, you know, when you talk to like naturalist doctors who are more holistic, you know, for example, I had one ask me one time, he was like, what is the correct level of a heavy metal in a children’s body? And I was like, I don’t know.
And he goes, Zero. It’s zero. And I was like, right. That makes sense. So it’s like, you can put these limits on the levels, but like wouldn’t zero be better? Yeah. And it’s tough. Like obviously our food is going to contain minute amounts of naturally occurring elements. Sure. But for the most part, they shouldn’t like really be detectable in your urine.
Now I just wanna be clear again, like this is not me saying we should not eat rice. Rice is a staple for most of the world’s population and it is perfectly healthy to eat. However, when we eat certain amounts of it and it has been grown in places that are contaminated with arsenic, that is a problem.
And also if your baby is not yet one year old, they don’t need it.
Yeah. So I do wanna talk to you about benefits of rice cereal and like, what are we telling people now, but we might need a little break quickly. Yeah. Let’s take a quick break. And we’ll talk about all of the benefits if there are any to using rice cereal when we get back. And reminder that you can get our episodes ad free and early, when you become a patron of the podcast.
And that link is in the show notes.
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Okay, welcome back. Maureen, can you maybe highlight any benefits to using rice cereal? Yes. So again, rice as a whole food and whole grain is a great source of nutrients. Is it? Okay. Hold on. It is. Are we talking about like white rice, brown rice, long grain, Basmati? All rice has a lot of nutrients as a whole grain when it’s not like processed and had like fiber taken out of it and stuff.
Yeah. And it’s easy to digest. It doesn’t tend to trigger allergic reactions like gluten and wheat based products do. It is well tolerated by most babies transitioning to solid foods. And again, like worldwide staple. However, rice cereal is essentially concentrated processed rice, and it is okay to be in baby’s diet if it is in the appropriate quantity.
How do we know the appropriate quantity? Yeah. There was really no clear guidance on that, which is, well, I guess I always think about like, what would the cave people do? The cave people probably would not have access to rice unlimited, you know? So it’s like probably every once in a while you come across some rice, you grind it up.
You, you know? Sure. Why not? But probably like an everyday thing, like at 6:00 PM, little Bobby get some breast milk in his rice cereal. It’s hard to say. Yeah. It’s like, we wouldn’t be feeding it to them in like absolute liquid, like chugging it down form. It would be like every time. Right. It would be like a solid food that then like takes up more space in the gut and we’re not eating quite so much.
It’s a little complicated, right? Mm-hmm. No, I don’t have that answer because nobody on their website was like, here’s the limit, but you should use quote an appropriate quantity. But definitely not in the bottle. We know that. Yes. So levels of inorganic arsenic though, vary widely by brand. Yay. Even for adult foods with rice in them.
So you can check out the consumer report study of arsenic levels in a variety of products and decide which brand you feel more comfortable with. And those links are always in our professional transcripts. Mm. Yes. So what now? Rice cereal remains on the, the list of recommended first food for babies really all over the place.
However, rice cereal in a bottle is no longer recommended. It’s usually abbreviated as R I B by the way, rib. Rib. So unless you are instructed specifically by a physician, don’t put rice cereal in a bottle. Even the AAP now says this, which I, I have to say even, cause I feel like they’re always just like a little late on the uptake there.
Rice cereal in a bottle can cause choking, particularly in young infants who have weak oral motor skills. The AAP also notes that it might lead to excessive weight gain and constipation, but in a very recent survey from the American Academy of Pediatrics, by the way most of the people surveyed were white parents just have to clear that up, over 40% still said they were putting rice cereal in a bottle.
And over 70% of those who then used that method said that they perceived their babies slept better and gained better weight and were healthier. They’re still buying into the rhetoric, whether or not that’s true for their babies really, it’s very hard to tell you guys know, right? Just like trying to figure out what makes your baby sleep better feels like the hardest math equation in the world.
Right? You gotta hold your mouth. Right. The air temperature has to be on 71. The blanky had to be washed four hours ago. Yeah. Like what? He likes it when it’s still slightly warm from the dryer but only on his feet. Yeah. It’s just like, so you know, and we have studies now that tell us that it does not make babies sleep better.
So that, that, that just feels like then people who are, of course, like listening to the elders in their families, as we feel like we should, but getting dangerous advice. And now at this time, the only indication that I am aware of for putting rice in a bottle is if human milk or formula has to be thickened for a medical reason.
Now there are other thickeners that are sold on the market that might be safer. It is traditionally used for babies with excessive spit up and vomiting, “severe reflux.” However, recent research is not really supporting that and is leaning more toward things like calcium protein allergy being the root cause of severe reflux.
Mm. So rice cereal in the milk bottle wouldn’t really help with that. However, we still routinely see pediatric practices failing to like use those up to date guidelines and the real, like more research evidence based reason for thickening milk is that it’s an effective intervention for reducing the risk of pulmonary aspiration caused by dysphasia.
And that’s just like, not something that is common. Right. Yeah. If you have a baby, who’s just like a little quote, unquote colicky. Yeah. Who’s wakes up twice a night or three times a night. This ain’t for you. Yeah, exactly. We also, now of course have the recommended age to start solids and introduce something like rice cereal being mostly at six months with major health organizations.
So we’re not doing that at six weeks. Please. For the love of God, don’t do that. And then interesting thing I read though, is scientists at the Cleveland Clinic studied the effect of cereal, rice cereal specifically on infant sleep and found that adding in rice cereal did nothing at all to speed up the age of sleeping through the night and the first uninterrupted six plus hour stretch of sleep came no earlier for those who had rice cereal in their diet.
Let let’s say it one more time for the people in the back! There is no scientific evidence to date that supports the claim that cereal equals better sleep. Yeah, none, none. Sorry guys. Now I know a lot of our listeners might be being like don’t we already know this? It’s all over the news, the arsenic and the sleep and blah, blah.
Why are we talking about it? Literally every article I read had a comment like this one. Just gonna read it to you. This was from Judy. Judy . Okay. I was raised that babies get a bit of pablum in their bottles at one month old. I slept as a baby much better. I also did this for my kids when I became a mother, my baby slept much better also.
I’ve now been a foster parent to over a hundred newborns. I hope not. And I give them all pablum in a bottle at one month and they all sleep very well. Whilst my friends and relatives and babies never sleep through the night till 12 or 18 months, mine slept through the night at three months. Happy baby, happy mama.
Whoa, Judy, whoa. I feel like I had to pull that comment cuz I was like this literally just sums up every mother-in-law, grandma, aunt who’s never had kids. Like, because it’s always such an extreme example. It’s not just like I had one baby and I did this and it worked. It’s like, no, it was like your 15 aunts and uncles all had it.
And they were healthier than every other baby I’ve ever met with no symptoms. And also I slept better as a baby, which I totally remember, you know? Yeah. It’s like what? Also I just have to note. When you are fostering a baby, you can’t use donor milk. Yeah, because it’s a whole situation. Like I just, I have friends that are foster parents and they wanted to get donor milk for this eight month old they were fostering.
It depends on where though. Some places allow it, but not here. But you can’t just, sometimes you can’t just do it. Yeah. So like the fact that Judy could just put pablum in a hundred newborn bottles, you know, and like we can’t get breast milk and treat it the same way. Yeah. It’s like, it’s wild. Where we know one has benefits and the other one has harm.
Yeah. Crazy. It’s crazy. It’s like the myth of rice cereal in the quote knockout bottle just prevails. Like how do we kill that? How do we make it die? Oh, knock out, like you’re knocking out for sleep? The knockout bottle. That’s what they call it. Yeah. The knockout bottle. So I don’t know. I guess like time to tell older generations to kind of like wake the F up and see that this entire thing was a marketing scam that they fell prey to.
Oh, ouch. And that hurts. That’s hard to admit. It’s hard to admit that something you felt like helped you was actually harmful marketing targeted at you to take your money. Or you could just say, listen, I’m glad it worked out, Judy. I’m glad it worked out for you. And just leave it at that and then just go, do you, and then you teach your children.
And then, you know, also when you become a grandma or a grandpa go into it with an open mind, you know? Yeah. I mean, and that that’s like, I get that it can be really hard to let go of things that you feel like you were a good person for doing and turns out you weren’t. Like that, that’s hard because that gets at like some of your core identity.
Yeah. When you attach morality to these actions when really like, you were just doing your best out there in 1945. I’m just doing my best now in 2022 and they are not the same thing. We are not in the same life circumstances. We are not in the same scientific world. Like yeah. And, and also the environment is changing.
Mm-hmm like this wouldn’t have applied in 1850 because people were still totally, you know, using their whole grains that they grew on their family farm. So this would be all crap back then. So we have to change with the environment, change with the times, the current regulations. Yeah. And like the arsenic issue was probably not as big of a concern.
No, you know, God, no. When our world was less polluted. Right. But I do want to just tell you if you see the word fortified on anything, mm-hmm, just assume that it’s not better. It’s that they replaced what should have been there anyway. Yeah. Or like, you know, some public health committee decided like, oh, okay.
This is the only food parents are really feeding their kids. So like, we have to make it like a whole diet food now. Oh yeah. You know, like that’s why, like, there’s a lot of weird stuff added to milk because they’re like, oh, okay. Milk is like the only thing children drink. So now it has to cover their entire dietary needs.
Stay tuned for an episode on milk. Cow milk, cow milk. I gotta do it. Okay. I’ll be so excited. Oh, gosh. All right, well, we’re gonna thank another one of our sponsors before we get to a really amazing award today for a very deserving gal. So please stick around to the end and we’re gonna read one of our reviews, which is so fun.
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All right. Today’s award goes to Becky from Philadelphia, who’s one of our new patrons and Becky says, my win is this. My child, Eli was born two weeks ago. I had it, the unmedicated birth I wanted, even though I was in the hospital and had to be induced. I had an amazing support team, midwives, nurses, doula, and my husband.
With their support and encouragement, I pushed my baby out on a birthing stool. Now I’m going with the flow of the daily challenges and wins of parenting and breastfeeding. That’s amazing! Mm-hmm I have to say being induced is no small feat to do unmedicated. Yeah. They basically push you to the brink of insanity and hunger. Yeah. And like claustrophobia in those rooms and being tied to, to monitors and stuff.
So your support team also gets a little high five. Yes. Because that is really hard to do you know, by yourself. And I love, I love to see that, like you can go in with a birth plan and then have everybody respect it. And also your hospital has a birthing stool, which is rad because not everyone does.
And you know, like this isn’t an exact number, but I’m pretty sure something like 80% of the world delivers their babies in a squatting position, but not in the United States. We’re pretty much mostly on our backs. Yeah. I, I don’t know, but I do know that it usually feels better for people. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So awesome.
Which award should we give Becky today? I think I would like to give you the Fantastic Flow Award, because you just like went with the flow of your induction. You listened to your body. You know, you had an amazing team who was there with the flow too. I mean, it just sounds like you guys all had a great vibe together.
Yeah, Becky continue flowing. Going with that flow, trusting your instincts. You’ve got really good ones and reach out to your support system and we’re sending you all kinds of love . Yes, absolutely. Okay. Well should I read a review? You do that. Yes, please. Okay. I have a great review to read. Let’s see.
This one says, well, who is this from? This one is from Bethede. Bethede. Bethy D. I like it. I’m not sure, but I’m sure your name’s really cool. And they said, I love this podcast. I was enjoying the current episode so much that I started over from episode one. What? Yeah. And they said my only regret is that I didn’t start listening sooner.
Aww. That is so sweet. You guys, we read every single review, so please don’t hesitate to leave them for us because it really does brighten our day and remind us why we work so hard to do this for everyone. Oh yeah. And we have like almost 400 reviews now or something crazy. It’s wild. I’m trying not to do that too loud. On Apple Podcast.
So yeah, Apple Podcast is the best place to leave us a review. You can do it on Spotify now. Oh, cool. Yeah. I was gonna say like, if you don’t have that player, that’s fine. You can also leave us a review on like Facebook. Oh, yeah. Which I, sometimes it doesn’t tell us that they’re there. It’s a weird thing, but anyway, you can leave it there and I would love it.
Yeah. We’ll read it either way. All right. Well you know, I think what we got out of today was don’t put rice cereal in your bottles, go with the flow, change your mind as the environment changes. Yes. And don’t be a Dick of a grandma. And thank you for listening to another episode of the Milk Minute podcast.
Absolutely. It, you know, the way we change this big system that just does not work to serve new parents is by educating ourselves, our friends, our family, and our healthcare providers about lactation. If you found value in this episode that we produced for you today, you can show us some love by joining our Patreon and there’s different tiers available to you, depending on what you’re into.
So anywhere from $1 to $20 a month with a yearly discount and all kinds of merch and free handbooks and live Q and A’s quarterly and messaging features with us. Mm-hmm and, you know, obviously for $5 a month and more, you can get ad free and early access to episodes. And we are happy to do that for all of you.
It’s the joy of our life. Absolutely. Thank you so much for supporting us and listening to our content. Have a great, fantastic day. Bye.