Cereal is not at all necessary, particularly the baby cereals. Regular (whole grain) oatmeal is more nutritious for your baby. Many doctors recommend iron-fortified rice cereal as baby's first food because it is less likely to cause an allergic reaction and because most babies sometime after the 6th month require an additional iron source other than mother's milk. If your baby starts solids around 6 months or later, there is much less chance of allergic reaction to foods. It's debatable whether healthy breastfed babies need the extra iron (you can get baby's iron levels checked if you're worried about this). In addition, infants need lots of protein and cereal has a low protein-calorie ratio (even lower when mixed with water or fruit). Many experts (including LLL) suggest giving meat or other foods naturally rich in iron instead of foods with added iron.
Solids readiness depends on both the maturity of baby’s digestive tract and baby’s developmental readiness for solids. Although the maturity of baby’s digestive system is not something that we can readily observe, research indicates that 6 months appears to be ideal for avoiding the allergies and other health risks of too-early solids. After this point, different babies are ready for solids at different times -- developmental readiness for solids cannot be determined using a calendar. Most babies are developmentally ready for solids somewhere between 6 and 8 months.
Signs that indicate baby is developmentally ready for solids include:
Baby can sit up well without support.
Baby has lost the tongue-thrust reflex and does not automatically push solids out of his mouth with his tongue.
Baby is ready and willing to chew.
Baby is developing a “pincer” grasp, where he picks up food or other objects between thumb and forefinger. Using the fingers and scraping the food into the palm of the hand (palmar grasp) does not substitute for pincer grasp development.
Baby is eager to participate in mealtime and may try to grab food and put it in his mouth.
We often state that a sign of solids readiness is when baby exhibits a long-term increased demand to nurse (sometime around 6 months or later) that is unrelated to illness, teething pain, a change in routine or a growth spurt. However, it can be hard to judge whether baby’s increased nursing is related to readiness for solids. Many (if not most) 6-month-old babies are teething, growth spurting and experiencing many developmental changes that can lead to increased nursing – sometimes all at once! Make sure you look at all the signs of solids readiness as a whole, because increased nursing alone is not likely to be an accurate guide to baby’s readiness.