Oats, a wholesome cereal grain, can be a wonderfully nutritious addition to your baby's diet. Oatmeal and oat flour are commonly chosen as early foods for infants because of their rich nutritional profile. The high fiber content in oats can foster the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, making oats an ideal choice for babies, especially those who may be struggling with constipation.
So, when’s the right time to introduce oats to your little one's diet? You can start incorporating oats into their meals as early as 6 months, or when you begin introducing solid foods into their diet.
To start with, consider introducing your baby to oat porridge. Once they become accustomed to this nutritious choice and demonstrate the ability to handle it comfortably, you can gradually expand their palate by incorporating oats into various delicious options, such as dosa, patties, or pancakes made from oats.
Why Are Oats Good for Your Baby?
Oats serve as an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, which provide your baby with the energy needed for their active days. They are also rich in essential nutrients, including protein, fiber, zinc, Vitamin E, folate, choline, iron, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. These nutrients play a major role in fortifying your baby's body, enhancing resilience, and equipping them to combat harmful toxins effectively.
Types of Oats & What Should You Choose?
There are several types of oats available, each with its own unique characteristics. Here are the most common types of oats:
- Also known as infant oatmeal or baby cereal.
- A type of cereal specifically formulated for infants and young babies as one of their first solid foods.
- A ready-to-eat cereal, which can be mixed with hot liquid like water or milk, and served to babies.
- If you are offering cereal to your little one, we highly recommend choosing oats cereal over rice cereal as it has more nutrients.
- Precooked and then dried oats, which means they cook extremely quickly, often just by adding hot water.
- Have a softer texture compared to other oat types.
- Because they’re more processed, they are also low in fiber.
- Can be offered to babies occasionally for the sake of convenience while traveling or if you have less time on hand. But best to avoid frequent use.
- Flavored oats like strawberry oats contain more sugar, sodium, and preservatives, so make sure you read the food labels before buying it.
- The least processed form of oats (include the bran layer, which contains most of the nutrition).
- They have a hearty, chewy texture and are higher in fiber.
- As they are least processed, they take longer to cook.
- You can transform cooked steel-cut oats into a puree or porridge-like thick consistency, which babies can easily eat.
- You can make it sweet by adding fruits.
- You can make it savory by adding veggies and light seasoning.
- The popular choice used in most households.
- A great option to offer to babies.
- They are flattened, pre-cooked, and dried.
- Cooking time is relatively less compared to steel-cut oats.
- They also retain the fiber like steel-cut oats.
- Texture is smoother and softer, making it easier for babies to enjoy them.
- Make porridge; powder the rolled oats and use the flour to make other foods like pancakes, tikkis, etc.
- Get ready-made oat flour or make it at home.
- If oat flour is made by pounding the whole grain, it will retain most of the fiber.
- A gluten-free option that can easily replace maida (refined wheat flour) in baking or making pancakes or patties.
- Dehulled oat grain (raw oats in its purest form).
- Retain all the nutritional content (including fiber) of oats.
- Take the longest time to cook compared to all forms.
- Not recommended to introduce oat groats to very young babies (can introduce after they’re 1 years).
- Can be powdered too to make oat flour.
How to Prepare Oats for Babies?
Ensure your baby consumes cooked oats, and not raw oats. Here are some ways to prepare oats.
Method 1: Oats Porridge
You can introduce oats as solid food to your baby around the age of 6 months by preparing delicious oat porridges. Mix oats with fruits or vegetables and serve them in a bowl for your little one to explore with their hands.
Alternatively, use a preloaded spoon that they can grasp and bring to their mouth. E.g., oats banana porridge, oats mango porridge, oats pumpkin porridge, and oats carrot porridge, among others.
Method 2: Incorporate into Various Recipes
Oats can also be incorporated into different recipes, such as oats khichdi, savory veggie oats pancakes, oats dalia, oats upma, oats dosa with grated veggies, and oats tikki with potato or rajma.
Method 3: Oats with Nuts and Seeds
Preparing oats with milk, powdered nuts, dry fruits, powdered seeds, and ghee is an excellent way to introduce oats to your baby. This not only supports healthy weight gain but also provides essential fats for your baby's developing brain and overall growth. E.g., oats apple dry fruits porridge with milk and oats banana gulkand porridge with milk.
Method 4: Oats Granola
You can offer oats granola to babies over 9 months old. However, ensure it is free of honey, added sugars, salt, and preservatives. You can offer slightly crushed homemade oats granola or oats muesli, but be cautious about avoiding honey, sugar, salt, and whole dry fruits to prevent choking hazards.
Precautions & Tips for Cooking Oats for Your Baby
- Start by cooking oats in water and then add breast milk or cow's milk once the oats are well-cooked to prepare oat porridge.
- If using steel-cut oats, be aware that they may require longer cooking time to become soft enough for easy digestion by your baby.
Oats Are Not a Common Allergen
Oats is not a common allergen, but please remember allergies can occur with any food. So, it’s best to observe your baby when you introduce a new food type for any discomfort or reactions after consumption. If you have any doubts, speak to your doctor.
Oats Are Gluten-Free!
Oats are naturally gluten-free. But oftentimes, oats are processed in facilities that also process wheat or other gluten-containing grains, which may lead to cross-contamination. If your baby has celiac disease or a wheat intolerance, avoid giving them oats.
Oats Are Not a Choking Hazard
Oats are not a choking hazard, because of their small shape and size. Also, the consistency or texture of cooked oats do not pose a threat. However, with any food, ensure your baby is sitting down and upright in a steady position, to avoid any risk of choking during mealtime.
Is Oat Milk OK for Babies?
Under 1 year of age, we do not recommend serving your baby any sort of beverage like cow’s milk or alternatives. This is because, as discussed earlier, they are getting their hydration and nutrition from breast or formula milk. Drinking any other beverage will fill up their tiny bellies and displace the essential nutrients they need.
But yes, oat milk can be used to make your baby’s other foods like porridge or cereal. It can be used in place of breast/formula/cow’s milk for these preparations only. However, be mindful that oat milk lacks the essential nutrients usually found in cow’s/breast milk.