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Rice water is the starch left behind in the water along with other nutrients on boiling rice. Most mothers prefer feeding rice water to their babies before introducing mashed rice in their diet. As rice is known to be a low allergen food, it is an ideal first solid food to be fed to babies when they wean from breast milk. Being easy to digest and nutritious, it is a great drink to start with for babies older than 5 months. Apart from giving energy, rice water also has other benefits in treating diarrhoea, eczema and fever. Read further to learn the benefits of rice water.
Benefits of Rice Water for Babies
Rice water which is easy to prepare has several nutritional and functional benefits for the baby, some of them being:
- Weaning: Rice water is the perfect starter to wean the baby from breastfeeding. Many of the Asian communities start with feeding rice water before introducing solid foods in the diet. Being nutrient-rich and easy to digest, rice water is perfect to prep the baby’s stomach for solid foods. However, it lacks all the essential nutrients contained in breast milk and should not be given as a replacement.
- Vitamin Rich: Rice is a good source of vitamins such as niacin, riboflavin, thiamine and vitamin B6. These essential vitamins are involved in the development of the nervous system, vision, skin, digestive system and converting the food consumed into energy. Being water soluble, they dissolve into the water when rice is boiled in it.
- Treats diarrhoea: Rice water is effective when given along with oral rehydration solution (ORS) to treat diarrhoea in infants. It reduces the bowel movements while making it less watery. It also has more calories than ORS and releases carbohydrates slowly in the intestines. It can be used along with solids foods and ORS to help the baby recover from diarrhoea. Rice water for baby constipation is the other way in which it can be highly useful. Offering plenty of water in every sip, it eases constipation.
- Soothes eczema: Rice water can be used to soothe the baby’s dry and scaly skin in case of eczema. Exposing skin to bath water containing rice starch is shown to significantly improve healing of the skin. Among mothers who worry about using too many creams and ointments, rice water works well as a treatment free of side effects.
- Energy booster: The drink is rich in carbohydrates and a great source of energy for all babies while being easily digestible. By releasing carbohydrates gradually, it keeps the child’s energy levels stable throughout the day.
- Fevers: It is a great source of energy and nutrients when babies have a fever and eat poorly. Along with providing them strength, it can also help bring down the fever.
- Economical: Rice water can be made with all types of rice available in the market as almost all the varieties of rice have mostly the same nutrient content. Nothing goes waste in the process as the rice can be consumed by the mother while the babe is fed rice water.
Nutritional Value of Rice
Rice being the staple food in many parts of Asia contains plenty of essential nutrients. The approximate nutritional values are tabulated below:
|Nutrition content||Value per 100 grams||Nutrition content||Value per 100 grams|
|Water||13.29 g||Magnesium||23 mg|
|Carbohydrates||79.15 g||Potassium||76 mg|
|Protein||6.5 g||Sodium||1 mg|
|Total lipid||0.52 g||Zinc||1.1 mg|
|Energy||358 kcal||Thiamin||0.565 mg|
|Iron||4.23 mg||Niacin||4.113 mg|
|Calcium||3 mg||Folate||389 ug|
|Phosphorus||95 mg||Vitamin B-6||0.171 mg|
Are There Any Disadvantages of Rice Water?
- Lacks adequate nutrition: Since rice water mostly contains dissolved nutrients from rice, its nutritional value is not nearly as much as whole rice and hence does not provide sufficient amounts of calories lost during diarrhoea. As it lacks sodium and potassium which are vital to the body, it can only be used along with ORS to treat diarrhoea.
- Not a replacement for breast milk: Rice water also cannot act as a replacement for breast milk or formula as it doesn’t contain all the essential nutrients required by the baby.
- May cause an allergy: If children are prone to food allergies it is advisable to apply a little rice water on the skin to test before feeding them. If they are allergic to oats and barley, it is likely that they are allergic to rice as well. Some of the symptoms of an allergy include bloating, stomach ache, vomiting, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, rashes etc.
Caution Before You Start Giving Rice Water
- To safely introduce rice water into your baby’s diet, always consult the paediatrician on when to start rice water for babies
- Always check for allergies before feeding the baby. Apply a little rice water on his skin or feed in small amounts at first and look for signs such as vomiting, rashes, difficulty breathing etc.
- Never replace rice water with milk or formula. You can always mix rice water with formula powder for added benefits
- It is important to thoroughly rinse and clean the rice before boiling it. Since pollutants or contaminants can cling to it in the rice mills, rinsing it thoroughly with warm water is necessary.
- Selecting good rice also ensures that the proper nutrition reaches the baby. Since most of the varieties of rice have more or less the same nutrient value, choose medium or small-grained rice as they come at a lower cost.
- Avoid adding soy milk along with rice water as it can aggravate food allergies. Cow milk can be added provided your baby is already used to it.
- Exercise caution with brown rice. Although brown rice is more nutritious than white rice, it contains fibrous layers which need to be strained effectively. These fibres can be difficult for the baby to digest.
How to Make Rice Water?
Making rice water is an easy process and requires only two ingredients.
- Two tablespoons of rice
- 1 cup of water
- Thoroughly rinse the rice with warm water to remove any dirt or impurities.
- Place the rice in a saucepan and add water. Boil it until the rice becomes soft and tender.
- Strain the rice and collect the water in a cup.
- The rice water is ready. For babies older than 12 months, a pinch of salt can be added for some taste.
- Dilute the rice water before feeding the baby.
Rice water is a simple and safe addition to the baby’s diet whether they are weaning or old enough to eat solid foods. Consult your paediatrician before introducing rice water to your baby for the first time.
Also Read: Pumpkin for Babies: Benefits and Recipes