Oats

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 6 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
Prep Time:How much time a food takes to prepare safely for a baby. The more time-consuming a food is to prepare safely, the more clocks it will have.
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Poop Friendly:Whether a food has qualities that help baby poop. Yes
Common Allergen: No
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A pile of oats before they have been prepared for a baby starting solid foods

When can babies eat oatmeal?

Oats can be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Warm cereals like infant oatmeal used to be common first foods for babies, in large part because pediatricians recommend fortified cereal as a source of iron. However, the form of iron commonly added to infant cereals is actually not the most bioavailable and is not absorbed as well as other forms of iron.1 For a list of foods high in bioavailable iron, check out our Top 25 Iron-Rich Foods for Babies & Toddlers or browse our free First Foods® database for foods that receive 4 or 5 stars in the nutritional ranking.

Riley, 8 mos, eats oatmeal with mashed strawberries.
How to pre-load spoons for babies to encourage self-feeding
Isar, 10 months, eats oatmeal two ways: in the form of balls and with a spoon.

Oatmeal vs. rice cereal

While iron-fortified baby cereals are perfectly suitable for babies starting solids, there’s no requirement to start with baby cereal as a first food. And there’s certainly no nutritional need for babies to be mostly consuming cereal. There are many unprocessed, whole foods that have the nutrients babies need. But if you are going to go with cereal, fortified oatmeal is a good, healthy alternative to rice cereal, and if you start with regular oatmeal (i.e., not baby oatmeal), your little one will have exposure to a bit more texture as well.

Can babies have oatmeal made with milk?

Cow’s milk is generally not recommended for babies younger than 12 months as it lacks the complete nutrition that breast milk and formula offer, but using dairy in prepared foods (such as oatmeal) is okay.

Is cereal healthy for my baby?

Absolutely. Oatmeal is a wonderfully dense source of good carbohydrates and minerals. Oatmeal also has more fat and protein than many other grains and is a good source of iron and zinc, which babies need.

Is oatmeal a common choking hazard for babies?

No, though in theory an individual can choke on any food or liquid. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals.

For more information on choking, visit our sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards

Is oatmeal a common allergen?

No. That said, if you have a strong family history of food allergies or suspect your baby may be allergic to oats, consult an allergist before introducing oats at home. As with all allergens, start by serving a small quantity on its own for the first few servings, and if there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future servings.

Can babies eat oatmeal made with milk?

Yes. Small amounts of milk can be used in cooking, as long it doesn’t replace breastmilk or formula intake. Babies should not consume cow’s milk as a drink until closer to 12 months of age. Cow’s milk is generally not recommended for babies younger than 12 months old because it lacks the nutrition that breast milk and formula offer but using milk in prepared foods is okay. As with all common food allergens, start in small quantities and watch for signs of allergic reaction or intolerance. For more information on introducing milk and dairy to babies, see our Milk FAQs.

Is there arsenic in oatmeal?

While arsenic can be found in many grains due to both organic and inorganic arsenic in our soil, oats are among the grains that tend to be lower in inorganic arsenic2 and is a terrific option for babies and toddlers. To reduce your child’s exposure to heavy metals, look for cereals that do not have rice as an ingredient and instead focus on fortified infant cereal brands that use multigrains or oats. Generally speaking, amaranth seedbuckwheat, bulgur, corn, farro, or millet as main ingredients have all been shown to have the lowest levels of heavy metals compared to other grains.

How do you prepare oatmeal for babies with baby-led weaning?

6 to 9 months old: Offer oatmeal that has been prepared with water, breast milk, formula or plant-based milks or cow’s milk if those allergens have been introduced. To encourage self-feeding, pre-load the spoon and offer it to baby in the air, waiting for them to grab it. Cooking oatmeal a bit longer with the top off of the pot can help get it to a consistency that clings to spoons more easily. You can then roll cooled oatmeal into balls, which tend to be easier for young babies to self-feed. Read more about cooking with breast milk. Remember, no honey until after age one (and preferably after age 2).

9 to 12 months old: Continue to offer oatmeal prepared with water, breast milk, formula, or milk. If baby is getting bored with porridges, consider shaping the oatmeal into balls and offering it two ways, one way with a spoon and the other as a finger food. Cooking oats in milk or coconut milk can help them stick together, as can cooking with the lid off of the pot until the oats reach a sticky consistency. You can then roll cooled oatmeal into balls, which tend to be easier for young babies to self-feed.

12 to 24 months old: Spruce it up! Many toddlers are tired of warm cereals by this age so taking a break from them for a little while in favor of finger foods can be a good idea. When you do serve oats at this age, take care to spruce them up a bit so your child doesn’t reject them entirely. Explore adding fruits, pulverized nuts or nut butters, or even a dollop of mascarpone cheese but try to hold off on adding sweeteners until age 2.

a hand holding some oatmeal pressed into a ball for babies 6 mos+
Cook oatmeal with the lid off until stiff, let cool, then form into balls. Oatmeal in this form is easier for babies 6 months+ to self-feed.

Eating and sleeping, sleeping and eating. Our sample feeding schedules can give you ideas for when to offer solids, breast/bottle feedings, and naps for babies of every age.

Oatmeal is a wonderful base to which chopped fruits and pulverized nuts can be added. When you are ready to introduce nuts to your baby (which modern allergists now recommend doing sooner than later), just process the nut in a food processor until completely fine ground and add a pinch to your baby’s bowl. Read more about introducing food allergens.

Recipe: Baby’s First Oatmeal

bowl of oatmeal

Ingredients

  • Oats
  • Breast milk or water
  • Chia seeds (optional)

Directions

  1. Prepare oatmeal as your particular product package instructs, substituting in breast milk as desired.
  2. To make it easier for baby to eat it with her hands, cook uncovered for a couple minutes longer than the instructions recommend and cool completely.
  3. Stir in a pinch of chia seeds for a nutritional boost and counter constipation.

If you could use some more recipe ideas, check out our breakfast guide to make your mornings just a bit easier.

Flavor Pairings

Oatmeal tastes good with many fruits and nuts. Some favorite combos include pecan and banana; strawberries and cream; apple and walnut. Just be sure you are grinding nuts before offering and introducing in small, scant quantities until allergies are ruled out and that the fruit is mashed.

  1. Iron Bioavailability. Austin Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  2. Consumer Reports. (2012). Arsenic in your food. Retrieved May 21, 2020