OATS | 6 mos+ | 🥇🔥💪 💩
Updated: Mar 10
Oats is packed with different nutrients that help babies in their growth and development. Being a single grain cereal, and having a soft texture, oats is easy to digest for babies, making it a perfect first food!
DISCLAIMER: Each child has their own development timeline and specific needs. The content below is general information and for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional one-on-one advice. You are responsible for supervising your child’s health and for evaluating the appropriateness of the information below for your child. Please consult your healthcare provider regarding support or advice for your child's well being and health. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
When can I give oats to my baby?
Babies can eat oats as soon as they are ready to start eating solid foods, which is usually when they are around 6 months of age and have met all the readiness signs for solids, unless otherwise advised by your baby's healthcare provider.
While iron-fortified baby cereal is a suitable food for babies, and it’s also very common for some pediatricians to recommend it as a first food, there’s no requirement to start with baby cereal. But if you choose to use baby cereal with your baby, iron-fortified oatmeal cereal is a better starter cereal than rice, as it is less constipating and many babies prefer the taste of oats over rice cereal. Also, rice cereal contains arsenic, a naturally occurring element that can be toxic if consumed in high amounts.
You can give your baby a safe start to solid foods! This on-demand workshop will provide you with the knowledge and confidence you need to wean well.
Is oats a healthy food for babies?
Oats are packed with different nutrients that help babies in their growth and development. They are an excellent source of fiber, zinc, magnesium, calcium, protein, and even some B vitamins. And it's also a good source of iron.
Being a single grain cereal, and having a soft texture, oats is easy to digest for babies, making it a perfect first food. The dietary fiber in oats acts as a laxative; it adds bulk to stools to get it moving through the body. Some babies may struggle with constipation when they shift from breast milk to solid food. Oats can help prevent and treat constipation by making bowel movement easier.
Oats is one of the few grains that provides a good amount of protein. Protein is extremely crucial for cell development and in helping your baby grow.
Is oats a safe food for babies?
Over-processed oats might contain some hazardous chemicals. Also, the sensitive nutrients of oats might be lost during processing. Some studies suggest that oat-based products may contain traces of glyphosate, a herbicide. This weed-killer pesticide is most heavily used in the US. It is a carcinogen for babies, and adults, too. However, the FDA has not announced their finale against glyphosate in oat-based products yet.
Is oats a choking hazard for babies?
Oats is not listed on CDC's list of most common choking hazards for babies. But to be safely offered to your baby, it needs to be cooked until soft. Refer to the section “How to prep and offer” to learn more about how to prepare and offer oats to your baby.
This workshop covers everything you need to know for dealing with gagging, reducing the risk of choking during mealtimes, and offering safe food sizes and shapes to your child.
Note: Keep in mind that any food can present a risk for choking if not prepared correctly. You are responsible for following age and food modification guidelines provided in order to reduce your baby’s risk for choking.
Is oats a top food allergen for babies?
Oats are not a common food allergen. 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 in a baby’s diet.
However, some babies might develop oat sensitivity because of the protein called avenin (naturally present in oats) that may cause allergic reactions. Oats sensitivity may also lead to Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome (FPIES). The symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, body temperature fluctuations, weight loss, and stunted growth.
Babies sensitive to gluten might also get an allergic reaction by consuming oats because of cross-contamination in the food industry during processing. Oats do not contain gluten, but they might be processed the same factory as wheat products.
Since oats are rich in fiber, that may cause gastric discomfort to those who have high-fiber sensitivity.
Whenever you give your baby oats (or other foods) for the first time, offer it in small quantities, and watch for any signs of a reaction. If your baby seems to tolerate the food well and you see no adverse reaction, then continue to gradually increase portion sizes when you offer it again to your baby. If your baby shows any symptoms like diarrhea, skin hives, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, swelling of mouth, weakness, or dizziness after the consumption of oats, consult your healthcare provider. These symptoms can be a sign of allergy or intolerance.
Note: Always consult with your healthcare provider regarding introducing solid foods to your baby, and specifically discuss any foods that may pose allergy risks for your baby.
How to buy oats for babies
When you go shopping for oats, you are quite likely to spot the following options:
Rolled oats: This type is probably what comes to your mind when you think of 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Which oats is best for babies?
Steel-cut oats are slightly more nutritious compared to the other types. It retains the most nutrients because they are not highly processed, but take approximately 11-25 minutes longer to cook than their instant counterparts. Instant oats is the least nutritious option, since it's the most processed type of oats.
★When selecting oats or standard infant oat cereal, look for options with no added preservatives, sugar, salt, and flavoring.
How to store oats
Once opened, put oats in a dry and clean glass or plastic container or tightly cover them in a plastic bag. Place the container 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. You can store frozen oats for up to a year.
Sealed oats can be stored in dry and cool places, or you can also store them in refrigerators. Check the expiration date to know for how long you can use it.
★It’s better to store ground oats in the fridge, since natural oils released during the grinding have the likelihood of making the flour rancid.
How to prepare and offer oats to babies
To safely offer oats to your baby, make sure to cook it to a soft consistency that passes the "squish test" (when you can easily mash food between your fingers or between your tongue and mouth top).To cook oats for your baby, just follow the instructions on the package. But here a few tips for cooking 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.
★Once cooked, wait until oats cool down before offering to your baby.
Can I make oatmeal with cow's milk for my baby?
Cow’s milk shouldn’t be offered to babies younger than 12 months as a main beverage, since baby’s body is not able to properly digest cow’s milk before their first birthday. But using cow’s milk and other milk products in cooking and preparations (such as oatmeal) is okay.
Purees: Oats porridge is a natural puree-like food. Cook oats per package instructions, or follow tips above to make porridge for your baby. You can cook oats in water, breast milk, formula milk, or cow’s milk. Add more or less liquid to achieve the consistency desired. Avoid pureeing, since it can turn into an unseemly mess. Offer it to baby via spoon feeding or by placing a preloaded spoon on baby’s tray or hand to encourage self-feeding.
Don't get stuck on purees! It's completely ok to start with only pureed foods, if that feels more comfortable to you. However, keep in mind that purees are just a transitional phase into finger foods. It shouldn't last for more than a few days or a couple of weeks. Aim to start exposing your baby to lumpy and finger foods no later than 8 months, unless otherwise advised by your baby's health care provider.
Finger food 6 to 9 months old: at this stage babies use their whole palm or full fists to hold food. So the best way to introduce oats is as a basic porridge, by cooking as mentioned above. When offered as a finger food, making the oatmeal on the thick side will help. Offer oatmeal in a suction bowl so baby can scoop the mush with their hands. Another option is to preload a baby spoon and place it on baby’s tray, on baby’s hand, or hold the spoon in the air in front of your baby so they can grab it from you. You can also shape oatmeal into balls, patties, or “sausages” and offer to baby the same ways suggested above for a preloaded spoon.
Finger food 9 to 12 months old: continue to serve the oatmeal as suggested above. Now is the time to prepare oatmeal more elaborately. Add seeds (chia, hemp, flax) and fruits like bananas, blueberries, and strawberries into the porridge to add different flavors. Continue encouraging the use of utensils by preloading a baby spoon and resting it on the edge of your baby’s bowl so they can grab it and bring it to their mouth independently. If your baby is not interested in using the spoon, then offer shaped oatmeal as suggested above.
This is also a great stage to start mixing oats with other foods and making preparations, since your baby should have already been exposed to a few different foods and you have probably ruled out some possible food allergies or intolerance.
Finger food 12+ months old: continue to offer oats as suggested above, and encourage the use of utensils. As your baby becomes a toddler, you will see them mastering the use of a spoon, then you can start making their oatmeal a little less thick. At this time your baby might start to choose the food by its texture and taste. Try serving oatmeal in different ways so your baby doesn’t get tired of it.
Note: Finger foods are small pieces of food that your baby can pick up and eat easily. Introducing finger foods early, as soon as starting solids, helps your baby get used to different food textures, improves coordination and encourages self-feeding. These are important feeding skills. Babies can enjoy soft finger foods before they have teeth. They can mash foods into smaller pieces using their gums.
⚠️Avoid putting finger foods or whole foods in your baby's mouth for them. Your baby must do this at their own pace and under their own control.⚠️
Oats meal ideas for babies:
Use raw oats to coat other foods like fruits and vegetables (a slice of avocado for example), or as a topping for purees or yogurt.
Make overnight oatmeal for your baby. Check the recipe below.
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.
Once you feel the baby is accustomed to its taste, you can try adding fruit and vegetable purees to oatmeal.
This is a great time to start offering oats as part of preparations. Use oats as a replacement for bread crumbs in hamburger, meatball, meatloaf, or in other dishes.
Use oats in baking to make muffins, cookies, pancakes, cakes, and so on.
Make baked oatmeal or soft granola for your baby. Check the recipes below.
Make cookies: Mix oats with mashed banana or any other favorite fruit of your baby. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom powder, or anything else that your baby likes. Shape and bake the delicious cookies.
Meat and eggs can be combined with oats in the same way as vegetables and fruits. You can make a delicious meat oat porridge using just oats, meat, and water.
Add a pinch of completely fine ground nuts to your baby’s oatmeal, once you are ready to introduce nuts into their diet (new recommendations encourage introducing major allergenic foods as early as 6 months). You may add nut butter instead of ground nuts, if you prefer butter.
As always, discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider. This post and this site is not meant to be a substitute for medical advice. The materials and services provided by this site are for informational purposes only.
Library Symbol Legend
Here in our Food Library we use some symbols or emojis to make it easier for you to find what you need. Listed below are the symbols we use and what they mean.
🔥 - this is a high-calorie food. You should include a high-calorie food at each meal.
💪 - this is an iron-rich food. You should include an iron-rich food at each meal.
🌈 - this is a colorful food. You should include a fruit and/or a vegetable at each meal.
🥇 - this food is a great choice for baby's first food.
🌱 - this food is a great choice for plant-based babies.
💩 - this is a food that helps prevent or treat constipation.
🥜 - this food contains peanuts, a common food allergen.
🍳 - this food contains egg, a common food allergen.
🐄 - this food contains cow's milk, a common food allergen.
🌾 - this food contains wheat, a common food allergen.
✳️ - this food contains soy, a common food allergen.
💮 - this food contains sesame seed, a common food allergen.
🌰 - this food contains tree nuts, a common food allergen.
🐠 - this food contains fish, a common food allergen.
🍤 - this food contains shellfish, a common food allergen.
⚠️ - this food is a common choking hazard. Make sure to follow age and preparation guidelines.
★ - tips, tricks, and hacks.
Choking Hazards. (2021, September 2). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved November 9, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/foods-and-drinks/choking-hazards.html
Food Allergies and Cross-Reactivity. (n.d.). Kids with Food Allergies. Retrieved November 12, 2020, from https://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org/food-allergies-and-cross-reactivity.aspx
Health Benefits of Oatmeal. (n.d.). Healthyeating.Org. Retrieved October 11, 2020, from https://www.healthyeating.org/blog/detail/health-benefits-of-oatmeal
Oatmeal: The Safer Alternative for Infants & Children Who Need Thicker Food. (n.d.). HealthyChildren.Org. Retrieved October 15, 2020, from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/abdominal/Pages/Oatmeal-The-Safer-Alternative-Need-Thicker-Food.aspx
Oats. (2021, July 6). The Nutrition Source. Retrieved October 15, 2021, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/oats/
Oats – January Grain of the Month | The Whole Grains Council. (n.d.). Whole Grains Council. Retrieved October 15, 2020, from https://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/grain-month-calendar/oats-%E2%80%93-january-grain-month
Roundup for Breakfast, Part 2: In New Tests, Weed Killer Found in All Kids’ Cereals Sampled. (2018, October 24). Environmental Working Group. Retrieved October 15, 2020, from https://www.ewg.org/news-insights/news-release/roundup-breakfast-part-2-new-tests-weed-killer-found-all-kids-cereals
Why Steel Cut Oats? (2016, January 29). UMass Chan Medical School. Retrieved October 15, 2020, from https://www.umassmed.edu/nutrition/ibd/ask-Nutritionist/why-steel-cut-oats/