Rice may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
Rice was domesticated in Asia thousands of years ago, and today it is a beloved staple food for nearly half of the world’s population. While “brown rice” and “white rice” are common ingredients across cultures, rice is actually incredibly diverse in flavor and origin. Arborio rice, basmati rice, bomba rice, sticky rice—there are more than 100,000 varieties in this diverse family of grasses, and each has distinct tastes and culinary applications. Cooking processes also change the way rice tastes and functions in a dish: more liquid can turn rice into a hearty congee or porridge, while other preparations can lead to a consistency that can be shaped into balls, blocks, or rolls.
Mila, 7 months, eats white rice.
Isar, 11 months, eats brown rice with black beans.
Hawii, 14 months, eats rice pilaf
Yes, as part of a varied diet. Rice is an excellent source of carbohydrates to provide quick energy, and enriched white rice offers great amounts of folate and a dash of iron.v Generally speaking, brown rice and other whole-grain varieties of rice contain more protein, vitamins, and minerals than white rice. Note, however, that rice and, particularly, processed rice products like infant rice cereal can contain varying amounts of arsenic, a heavy metal the grain soaks up from polluted environments that can cause negative neurodevelopmental effects when consumed in great excess. Soaking and rinsing rice before cooking can help remove some of the arsenic. In general, you need not be concerned with baby consuming rice as long as it is part of an overall varied diet.
★ Tip: Research suggests that a varied diet with nutrients like folate and vitamins B12, C, and E can help the body combat arsenic’s effects.
It’s complicated. While rice is named as a choking hazard for babies younger than 12 months old by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (United States), it is not included in the US Department of Agriculture Food & Nutrition Service list of choking hazards among young children. For rice in its whole form, aspiration (when something is breathed into the airway, but does not block it) is more likely than true choking. This is particularly of concern with loose rice grains, which can be challenging for babies to manage in the mouth and can scatter as baby tries to swallow. Single, loose grains of rice are small enough to be aspirated in the event of an uncoordinated swallow. Rice products like mochi and other steamed rice cakes are a common cause of choking and aspiration in some regions, due to their chewy, dense, and sticky consistency. To reduce the risk of aspiration and choking, mix loose grains of rice into sauce or a soft, scoopable food and wait until at least age 3 to serve steamed rice cakes. As always, create a safe eating environment and stay within reach of baby during meals. For more information, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with common choking hazards.
No. Rice is not a common IgE-mediated food allergen. However, rice is a known trigger for FPIES—food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome, an increasingly recognized non-IgE mediated food allergy in children that can be severe and life-threatening. Unlike most food allergy reactions that occur within minutes of contact with a specific food trigger, FPIES allergic reactions occur within hours after consuming a particular food. For this reason, FPIES is sometimes known as a delayed food allergy. Symptoms include delayed vomiting (typically 1 to 4 hours after ingesting the food trigger) and/or experiencing diarrhea 5 to 10 hours after ingestion. Other symptoms include low blood pressure, low body temperature, extreme pallor, repetitive vomiting, and significant dehydration. Thankfully, most cases of FPIES will completely resolve during toddlerhood. Children who have been diagnosed with FPIES must be followed closely by an allergist or pediatric gastroenterologist. If baby has pre-existing FPIES to another food, talk to your allergist about how best to introduce other solid foods that may have a higher risk for inducing FPIES.
As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity of rice for the first few servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the serving size over future meals.
Yes, rice and a number of common foods can contain varying amounts of arsenic. The biggest potential sources of arsenic in the diet generally come from arsenic-contaminated well water, processed fruit juices (especially apple and grape juice), and highly-processed forms of rice such as infant rice cereal.
Arsenic is a heavy metal that is present in the environment and, as a result, also in many foods that absorb the metal from the soil or water in which they are grown. Inorganic arsenic (one of the two types of arsenic) is of greater concern because it is recognized as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization, and it can have negative neurodevelopmental effects for children. Both inorganic and organic arsenic occur naturally in the environment—the fundamental difference between the two is in their chemical structures, which is why our bodies interact with them differently.
Rice (along with many fruits, vegetables, and other edible plants) has trace amounts of arsenic due to arsenic present in the water and soil in which the plant grows. Arsenic gets into the soil and water through the use of arsenic-based pesticides, animal feeds, fertilizers, and other contaminants, and once there, the arsenic is absorbed by the plants growing in that area. The amount of contamination varies by location, and as a result, the amount of arsenic in rice depends on where it grew and how it was processed.
Generally, white or polished rice tends to be lower in arsenic compared to brown rice. This is because arsenic is more concentrated in the grain’s outer layer, which is stripped off to make white rice. Varieties like white basmati rice and white sushi rice generally tend to be lower in arsenic, although it varies by region.
Yes, the arsenic in rice can be reduced in a variety of ways. First, to minimize arsenic exposure, purchase white rice (also called “polished” rice). You can also follow these steps to reduce the arsenic in any variety of rice:
Rinse the rice in a bowl, colander, or cheesecloth before cooking.
Prior to cooking, soak rice for a few hours or overnight, then drain the soaking liquid.
When cooking, use a 2-part cooking method:
Boil the rice in a large amount of water (use a 4:1 ratio) for 5 minutes
Drain the water and proceed with your recipe’s directions for cooking the rice
The 2-part cooking method can work with a rice cooker: simply boil rice in a large pot of water, drain and rinse, and then proceed with using the rice cooker. It also works with an Instant Pot or pressure cooker: use the “sauté” function to boil rice in water, drain, and proceed with a recipe’s instructions.
If you do not have time to take these steps, try not to stress. Know that by simply avoiding arsenic-contaminated well water, fruit juices, and highly processed forms of rice such as infant rice cereal and puffed rice cakes, you are already avoiding the biggest sources of dietary arsenic.
Not necessarily. Organically-grown rice absorbs arsenic in the same way as conventionally-grown rice. Arsenic levels depend on where the rice was grown, and even organic rice can be exposed to environmental arsenic.
Both white and brown rice can be a part of a balanced and healthy diet for babies. Generally, brown rice tends to have more arsenic than white rice, but also offers more vitamins and minerals, while white rice commonly has less arsenic but fewer nutrients. Keep in mind that rice can be prepared in a number of ways to help reduce the overall arsenic content.
Many grain varieties are low in arsenic, like amaranth, barley, buckwheat, bulgur, corn, farro, millet, polenta, quinoa, and teff. Generally, these alternatives are lower in arsenic than rice, although quantities vary depending on where the plants grew. Including these grains in your rotation of foods is a helpful way to incorporate more variety, help expose baby to new foods, and reduce baby’s arsenic exposure.
Store-bought rice cereals are a condensed form of rice, meaning that they can be higher in arsenic. When possible, choose fortified cereals that use multiple grains, including oats. Alternatively, consider making rice cereal from scratch at home and use a variety of rice that tends to have lower levels of arsenic, such as white basmati or white sushi rice. You can also serve warm cereals made with alternative grains that tend to have less arsenic, including amaranth seed, barley, bulgur (wheat), corn, farro (wheat), or millet, which have been shown to contain the lowest levels of heavy metals compared to other grains. Store-bought fortified infant rice cereal is a common first food in some regions, but there’s no developmental or nutritional need to start solids with baby cereal, since there are lots of age-appropriate, iron-rich first foods to help baby meet their early nutritional needs.
In general, we look for thin, soft multi-grain “rice” cakes or teething rusks that soften easily on contact with saliva and do not rely solely on rice as an ingredient. Examples include Suzie’s spelt cakes, Suzie’s corn and quinoa cakes, or Lundberg’s whole grain cakes. This information is not sponsored—we simply want to give you examples as a starting point in your research. Avoid rice crackers, thick puffed rice cakes, and steamed rice cakes such as mochi, all of which pose a higher choking risk.
It depends on the variety. Brown rice and other whole-grain varieties offer soluble and insoluble fibers that help support healthy gut bacteria, bulk up poop, and hydrate the intestines for healthy digestion and bowel movements. On the other hand, white rice contains little to no fiber, which can slow down the processes of digestion and pooping. Remember that pooping patterns can vary significantly from baby to baby. If you have concerns about baby’s pooping and digestive function, talk to your pediatric healthcare provider.
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience.
Make a thick congee or porridge by cooking the rice with bone broth, coconut milk, or another liquid that is rich in fat, protein, and other key nutrients. Let baby scoop up the mixture with hands or offer a pre-loaded spoon for the child to grab from you. Alternatively, use moist, cooked rice to form large, soft balls that baby can pick up and munch on. Chopped rice noodles are another great way to introduce rice to baby. If you want to share a thin rice cake, consider spreading it with a thin layer of a nutrient-dense food, such as bean dip or liver pate. Wait to offer mochi, nian, gao, tteok, and other steamed rice cakes, as these pose a higher choking risk due to their thick, springy consistency and often cylindrical shapes. Consider avoiding single-grain infant rice cereal in order to minimize baby’s exposure to arsenic and instead serve rice in its whole form or opt for infant cereals made from amaranth, quinoa, or oats.
Offer rice as desired: plain and on its own, rolled into balls for the child to pick up and practice biting, or as part of a shared meal. Try recipes for arancini, onigiri, sticky rice, or any dish that can be formed into a patty. When serving rice on its own, flattening the grains with the back of a fork can help the rice stick together and make it easier for babies to self-feed.
Serve rice as desired, either on its own or as part of a shared meal. Serve alongside an age-appropriate utensil like trainer chopsticks or a fork and pre-load the utensil as needed. Don’t be surprised if the toddler continues to use their hands. Rice can be tricky to pick up with utensils, so consider making the rice stickier and moister to help the child have more success with the utensil.
Serve rice as desired, on its own or as part of a shared meal. At this age, you can also begin to introduce mochi, nian gao, tteok, and other steamed rice cakes cut into quarters lengthwise so they are no longer round. When serving these steamed rice cakes, make sure the child is seated and supervised in a safe eating environment, as many of these kinds of foods pose a high choking risk.
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The recipe contains kimchi, which may include common allergens such as finned fish, sesame, soy, or wheat. Be sure to check the ingredient list on the label and only serve to a child after any allergens have been safely introduced. Added ingredients may include honey, which should not be given to babies younger than 12 months.
Rinse the rice until the water runs clear.
Place the rice and 1 ¼ c (300 ml) of water or stock in a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer until the rice has absorbed the liquid, about 20 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat.
Keep the rice covered in the pot and let it steam for 10 minutes.
While the rice is steaming, rinse the kimchi to remove some of the spice, then finely chop the kimchi.
After 10 minutes of resting, stir the chopped kimchi into the rice. Use your hands to form the rice into balls at least 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. Set aside 1 or 2 balls for baby, then store the rest for future meals.
Serve the Balls
Offer kimchi rice balls to baby, then let the child self-feed.
If help is needed, hold the ball in the air in front of baby, then let the child grab it from you.
Eat a kimchi ball alongside baby to model how it’s done.
To Store: Kimchi Rice Balls keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days or in the freezer for 2 months. When freezing, use this method to keep the balls from sticking together: evenly space the balls on a plate or tray, then transfer them to the freezer. Once the balls are fully frozen (about 30 minutes later), transfer them to an airtight container.
Brown and white rice have distinctive tastes—and even within those categories, there are different varieties of rice with varying flavors and textures. Both brown and white are best paired with your favorite seasonings. Try mixing rice with bold herbs like basil and parsley, cooking rice in flavor-forward liquids like bone broth or coconut milk, or serving in a casserole or salad with fruits and vegetables to add taste and texture.
Pediatrician & pediatric gastroenterologist
Pediatrician & pediatric allergist/immunologist
Pediatric occupational therapist, feeding & swallowing specialist, international board-certified lactation consultant
Speech-language pathologist, feeding & swallowing specialist
Pediatric registered dietitian & nutritionist
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