Barley for Babies: How to Choose, Benefits, Recipes & more

Barley for Babies: How to Choose, Benefits, Recipes & More

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Barley is a type of cereal that has been cultivated in various parts of the world over many centuries. There are many varieties of barley available today which are found in countries including Russia, France, Germany, United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia among others. It is available in different forms, and its nutritious properties make it a great addition to a baby’s meals.

Nutritional value of Barley

A rich source of Vitamin A, folate, and protein, barley makes for a great baby food. The following nutrients can be obtained from barley:

Nutrition Component Value per 100 g Nutrition Component Value per 100 g
Water 9.44 g Energy 354 kcal
Protein 12.5 g Total Lipid 2.3 g
Carbohydrate 73.5 g Calcium 33 mg
Iron 3.6 g Magnesium 133 mg
Phosphorus 264 mg Potassium 453 mg
Zinc 2.77 mg Copper 0.49 mg
Thiamin 0.646 mg Riboflavin 0.285 mg
Niacin 4.6 mg Vitamin B-6 0.318 mg
Folate 19 ug Vitamin A 22 IU
Vitamin E 0.57 mg Vitamin K 2.2 mg

Is It Safe to Give Barley to Your Baby?

Barley is considered a good food for babies as it is filling and has plenty of nutritive properties. However, owing to the presence of gluten (a kind of protein), it is not advisable to make barley the first food for your baby. This is because there has been evidence to suggest that it can compromise the baby’s immune system as it increases the risk of Celiac disease (an autoimmune disease triggered by gluten). It is also not recommended for babies who are allergic to wheat as there is a chance of a link between wheat allergy and barley allergy.

When Can Your Baby Start Eating Barley?

It is recommended that babies be started on a barley-based diet only after they are at least seven or eight months old. Follow the three-day rule as you do with all new foods. This means, wait for three days after introducing it to assess if your baby displays any signs of allergy, and do not introduce any other new foods in these three days.

Barley is a versatile food item and you can make it smooth or chunky according to your child’s preferences. But it is best to start off with a little quantity of smooth barley cereal.

Benefits of Barley

Babies have small stomachs and can eat only very little amounts of food at a time. Thus, it is essential that you make every meal of your baby a nutritional one. Barley is one super food that can pack a nutritious punch at meal times. This is one reason why barley water for babies has been a time-tested favourite.

  • Improve Digestion:

A rich source of dietary fibre, barley can help stimulate digestion and regulate your child’s bowel movements. A healthy gut means a healthy baby.

  • Strong Bones:

The presence of a good amount of phosphorous in barley can help strengthen your baby’s bones. After calcium, phosphorous is what our bones are made of.

  • Boost Iron Absorption:

Barley contains a significant amount of copper which promotes absorption of iron in the blood. There is no point in feeding your baby iron-rich food if it is not being absorbed properly.

  • Strengthen the Liver:

Studies indicate that including barley in the diet on a regular basis has been useful in safeguarding the liver from damage by reducing the excess production of bile acids.

  • Anti-fungal Properties:

Barley contains a variety of biochemicals which are known for their anti-fungal properties.

How to Choose and Store Barley for Infant Food

Hulled and pearled barley are the best choices for storing and cooking purposes. Hulled barley contains more nutrients but the pearled ones are easier to cook. Both varieties are ideal for use in soups, stews, and broths wherein they fluff up to a much bigger size. Milled or ground barley is another option.

Pearled barley can be stored for many months if placed in a cool and dry place. If the barley is packaged, it will likely have a use by date for reference. Milled barley is best stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator. Irrespective of the type of barley you use, it is best to buy in small quantities to prevent spoilage and wastage.

Child eating baby food

How to Cook Barley Cereal?

If you buy pre-packed barley, there are likely to be cooking instructions provided. Around one cup of uncooked barley is likely to turn into three to four cups of cooked barley!

Take about two tablespoons of barley cereal and an adequate amount of water in a bowl and mix the two till all the lumps are gone. Then cook this over a low flame for about 15 to 20 minutes or in a microwave till it is well done. You can then add some formula or breastmilk to make a thin paste before feeding it to baby. You can also add pureed fruit to this cereal for some variety in flavour and natural sweetness.

Delicious Barley Recipes for Infants

Here are some interesting recipes with barley to try out at home. Bringing in some variety at mealtimes will help your baby develop a liking for this superfood more easily.

1) Barley and Sweet Potato Balls


1 cup soft cooked pearled barley

1 cup cooked sweet potatoes

1/2 cup applesauce or fruit puree

A pinch of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg (for babies above 8 months)

Method: Mix all the items in the ingredients section together in a bowl and roll them into small balls. This makes for some interesting and nutritious finger food for baby.

2) Barley Salad


¼ cup soft cooked pearled barley

¼ cup soft cooked diced carrots

¼ cup soft cooked and smashed peas

¼ cup soft cooked and cubed sweet potatoes

Method: Toss all these items under the ingredients list together in a bowl. Serve to baby as
finger food or a snack.

3) Barley Water


1 cup barley

½ cups water

Jaggery for flavouring (if required)

Method: Put the barley and water in a pressure cooker and let it cook for about three whistles. Once the cooker has cooled a bit, open the lid, add jaggery if you want, and blend the mixture till smooth. Strain this mixture and give it to baby when it is lukewarm.

4) Barley Apple Porridge


¼ cup whole barley

¼ cup peeled and cubed apples

3½ cups of water

Method: Wash the barley well and then cook it in a pressure cooker with three cups of water. Once the barley is cooked, simmer it for a few minutes and then add the apples along with the remaining water. Then cook it on low heat for about 10 minutes before pureeing the mixture. Then cool it and feed to baby.

Things to Remember

Here are a few things to remember when buying and cooking barley:

  • Babies cannot digest whole barley so avoid buying it
  • Store pearled barley in an air-tight container. You may even refrigerate it.
  • Before consumption, check stored barley for freshness
  • Start by buying small quantities

Barley needs to be cooked well so that the baby does not get an upset tummy. Also, remember to feed only small portions of barley to your baby. Feeding an excessive amount can lead to bloating as barley contains a high amount of fibre.

Disclaimer: This information is just a guide and not a substitute for medical advice from a qualified professional.

Also Read: Calcium Rich Foods for Babies