Rice Water for Infants: Health Benefits & How to Make
Rice water is the starch left behind in the water, along with other nutrients, when 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.
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:
|Value per 100 grams
|Value per 100 grams
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:
Rice water is the perfect starter to wean the baby from breastfeeding. Many Asian communities start with feeding rice water before introducing solid foods into 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.
2. 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, and digestive system and in converting the food consumed into energy. Being water-soluble, they dissolve into the water when rice is boiled in it.
3. Treats Diarrhoea
Rice water is adequate when given along with oral rehydration solution (ORS) to treat infant diarrhoea. It reduces the bowel movements and makes it less watery. It also has more calories than ORS and releases carbohydrates slowly in the intestines. It can be used with solid foods and ORS to help the baby recover from diarrhoea. Rice water for babies with colic or constipation is the other way in which it can be highly useful. Offering plenty of water in every sip eases constipation.
4. Soothes Eczema
Rice water can be used to soothe the baby’s dry and scaly skin in case of eczema. Exposing skin to bathwater containing rice starch is shown to significantly improve the 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. But in case the rashes increase, discontinue it immediately.
5. 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.
6. Brings Down Fever
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.
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 to waste in the process, as the rice can be consumed by the mother while the baby is fed rice water.
8. Skin Irritation Relief
Rice water can be used topically to soothe and alleviate various skin irritations in babies. Its natural anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce redness and discomfort caused by diaper rash or minor skin conditions. Simply applying a diluted rice water solution to the affected area can provide relief.
9. Hair Detangler and Conditioner
Rice water isn’t just beneficial for the skin; it can also serve as a natural detangler and conditioner for a baby’s hair. After washing your baby’s hair with a gentle baby shampoo, rinsing with rice water can help prevent tangles and leave the hair feeling soft and manageable.
How Much Rice Water Can You Give to Your Baby?
The amount of rice water you can give your baby should be cautiously approached, as babies have delicate digestive systems. It’s generally recommended to start with a small amount and observe how your baby reacts. Here’s a basic guideline:
- Age: You can introduce rice water in minimal quantities for babies who have started on solid foods (typically around 6 months or as advised by your paediatrician).
- Quantity: Start with a teaspoon or less of rice water and monitor your baby for any adverse reactions or allergies. If there are no issues, you can gradually increase the amount over time.
- Frequency: Initially, offer rice water only occasionally, perhaps once a day or every few days, depending on how your baby responds. Ensure that rice water is not replacing essential nutrients from breast milk or formula.
- Consistency: The rice water should be well-cooked and strained to remove any solid particles, making it easy for your baby to digest.
Always consult your paediatrician before introducing any new food or drink to your baby’s diet. They can provide specific guidance based on your baby’s age, health, and dietary needs. Additionally, be vigilant for any signs of allergies or digestive discomfort when introducing new foods, including rice water, to your baby’s diet.
Are There Any Disadvantages of Rice Water?
1. Lacks Adequate Nutrition
Since rice water mostly contains dissolved nutrients from rice, its nutritional value is not nearly as much as whole rice. Hence, it 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.
2. 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.
3. 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, they are likely 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 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 it comes 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 for a baby is easy and requires only two ingredients.
- 2 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 boiled rice water before feeding it to the baby.
1. Is It Good to Give Rice Water to My Baby at Night?
Yes, you can give rice water to your baby at night if it’s part of their regular diet. It can be a gentle and easily digestible option, but be mindful of the quantity to avoid overfeeding before bedtime.
2. Is Rice Water Effective in Alleviating Diaper Rash?
Rice water can have soothing properties that may help alleviate mild diaper rash. Applying a diluted rice water solution to the affected area can provide relief. However, if the inflammation persists or worsens, consult with your paediatrician.
3. Can You Add Rice Water to Baby Cereal and Purees?
Yes, you can add rice water to baby cereal and purees to make them smoother and more accessible for your baby to swallow. Ensure the rice water is well-cooked and strained to remove any solid particles before mixing it with baby food.
4. Can Basmati Rice Water Be Given to a Baby?
Yes, basmati rice water can be given to a baby, but like any other type of rice water, it should be well-cooked and strained before feeding it to your baby. Basmati rice is known for its fragrance and long grains, but the preparation method remains the same.
5. Is It Safe to Use Rice Water as a Hair Wash for Infants?
Using rice water as an infant hair wash can be safe and may help detangle and condition their hair. However, ensure the rice water is mild, well-strained, and doesn’t irritate your baby’s scalp. Be gentle during the washing process to avoid any discomfort. If you notice any adverse reactions, discontinue use.
Rice water for newborns 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.
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