Have you ever thought of giving “am” to your baby? Learn about the benefits of rice water here.
What can you read in this article?
- Rice water for baby – is it safe?
- Benefits and drawbacks of rice water for babies
- Reminders when preparing rice water for baby
You’ve probably heard of the joke about a child being fed rice water or “am” instead of milk when he was a kid. As the joke implies, babies who just had rice water lack nutrients to help in their brain development.
But while modern families in the cities can make a joke about it, giving am to babies to replace breast milk or formula milk is still a rampant practice in rural areas of the country.
So, let’s set the record straight: is am or rice water safe for babies?
Rice water – is it safe for baby?
Image from Freepik
In a 2015 interview, Department of Health Assistant Secretary Paulyn Ubial said rice water was not entirely bad. However, it is important to note that rice water should not be given as a substitute for breast milk or formula milk.
Ubial said that it should only be given as a vitamin B supplement, particularly after episodes of diarrhea in children.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mothers should exclusively breastfeed their children for at least 6 months, starting from the first hour of life, so that newborns can receive the best nutrition for their growth and development.
Without a doubt, breastmilk is still the best for babies, as it contains all of the nutrition that babies need for their development. Meanwhile, as there are mothers who are not able to breastfeed, the health agency advises exclusive formula milk feeding.
Therefore, while rice water has its benefits, it is highly noted that it should not be used as an alternative for breastmilk, or formula milk. The Department of Health (DOH) is reminding mothers not to give their babies rice water—as a substitute because it does not contain enough nutrients and minerals a growing baby needs. It lacks sodium as well as potassium, which are both very important minerals for your baby’s development.
“Rice water cannot replace breast milk or even formula because it contains only vitamin B. It has no proteins, carbohydrates and other vitamins and minerals that infants need for their growth and development,” said Ubial.
“Since supplements were not that popular then, doctors advised ‘am’ and the notion that it was good for babies was passed on to the next generations… but they didn’t know that the context of such advice was only after diarrheal episodes,” she added.
What is rice water?
If you ask your parents or your grandparents, chances are, they’re very familiar with the benefits of rice water or ‘am’ as it’s commonly known in the Philippines. However, it’s important to note that rice water should only supplement your baby’s diet, and should only be given from 6 months onward.
It is important to note that infants 6 months and below should not be given water or other fluids aside from breast milk or formula milk. Read about it here.
Rice water is made by taking the water that comes from soaking rice in water. You just need to wash the rice to remove any impurities, add some water, and then let it sit for 15-20 minutes. The resulting liquid is now rice water.
In recent years, however, with the popularity of breastfeeding and formula milk, fewer moms are feeding am to their kids. However, it can be a good idea to use it as a supplement to your child’s regular feedings after exclusive breastmilk or formula feeding for 6 months.
In fact, in some countries, rice water is often recommended as a baby’s first food as per traditional weaning practices. Its digestibility and hypoallergenic nature is the reason behind this. Some moms prefer giving their babies a few spoons of rice water before they introduce rice.
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Benefits of rice water
While it cannot be the baby’s standalone food and should not replace milk as a baby’s primary source of nutrients in their first year, rice water, if prepared properly, does have some benefits for your little one.
It’s good for treating diarrhea.
As Ubial mentioned earlier, rice water is a cheap rehydration substitute when a baby is vomiting or has diarrhea, when electrolyte fluids or medications are unavailable.
If your little one has diarrhea or gastrointestinal problems, then it’s a good idea to give them rice water to help ease their stomach. Rice water can treat mild gastroenteritis, and also lower the stool production of babies. So supplementing your child’s medicine with rice water is a good idea.
Have you noticed that some baby products like baby wash or lotion added rice extracts as one of their ingredients? It’s because studies have shown that rice water is helpful for treating minor skin irritations.
According to Healthline, rice water is known to help with skin irritation caused by sodium laurel sulfate (SLS), an ingredient found in many personal care products.
Eczema, a form of dermatitis that can occur in infants and adults, can be cured by using rice water. Just mix 2 cups of rice water in your baby’s bathwater, and the rice water should help moisturize their skin and help reduce the patches of itchy red skin that are caused by eczema.
It can lower your baby’s fever.
If your child has a fever, rice water can also help lower bring their fever down. This is mainly because water prevents dehydration and dehydration causes a rise in temperature.
It’s a good source of energy and carbohydrates.
Rice water is a good supplement to your infant’s feedings as it contains a high number of carbohydrates, and it’s also easy for your little one to digest, so you don’t have to worry about allergies or an upset tummy.
With the benefits of rice water mentioned above, it’s not a bad idea to try it for baby when he reaches his 6th month, or as bathwater. But to make sure that it’s safe for your baby to ingest, here are some precautions you have to remember when making or giving rice water.
Reminders when preparing or giving rice water to baby
Image from Shutterstock
- Clean all the utensils that you will use for preparation.
- Wash off any impurities by cleaning the rice thoroughly (like you would when preparing rice to eat)
- Despite rice being a low allergenic food, maintain a gap of 3-5 days between introducing any other new food. It will help identify the cause of food allergy or intolerance, if any. If your baby has allergy to whole grains, consult his pediatrician first before offering it to baby. If you notice any symptoms of food allergy, contact your child’s doctor right away.
Should you decide to give rice water a try, make sure you prepare it properly to avoid any food-borne diseases. Also, since it’s lacking in a lot of important nutrients, don’t forget to add other healthy foods to your baby’s diet, especially fruits and vegetables.
If you have any questions on which foods are safe for your baby, don’t hesitate to ask her pediatrician about it.
Additional edits by Camille Eusebio
momjunction.com, lifestyle.inquirer.net, Parenting Firstcry
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