“Is it safe to give my baby oats? I don’t want him to lose weight.” This is the most often asked query that young mothers in India have when it comes to introducing oats in their baby’s diet. The reason could be the advertisements on television which propagate oats for weight loss or a slim and trim figure. While this is what most mothers want for themselves, they get alarmed when asked to give oats to their baby thinking it will cause the little one to lose weight. Oats have been given to babies in western countries for eons and its high time we realize that oats are good for babies in India too. Let’s clear the air around this confusion and set the records straight for oats and understand how good are oats for babies in India.
The first thousand days of life are crucial for your baby’s growth and development. The kind of nutrition and care your baby receives during this time frame can have far reaching consequences in later life. It is imperative that your baby has a strong health and nutrition foundation. At six months, besides giving breast milk to your baby introduce complementary foods to meet the increasing nutrient needs of your baby. As a responsible mother, you will be worried about providing the best health, nutrition and care for your baby. So we are here to help you in this journey.
Oats for babies, although not frequently used in Indian households, is a good option for introducing as complementary foods when breast milk alone is insufficient. An array of recipes can be made with oats for your baby: oats porridge, fruit and oats gruel, oats idli, oats dosa and many more. Oats porridge is a simple, nutritious recipe that can be introduced as a complementary food to your 6-month baby.
Frequently Asked Questions on Oats for Babies in India
Here is a quick FAQ on Oats for babies that will help you make the right decision of introducing oats to your baby.
What are Oats?
Oats or Jaei as it’s known in Hindi or Avena sativa to give it its scientific name are a whole grain cereal which was traditionally given to livestock but soon its health benefits warranted its use for humans too.
How can I make oats porridge?
- Take two tablespoons of rolled oats or oatmeal flour in a pan and add one cup of boiling water stirring continuously so that no lumps are formed.
- After cooling add some milk and continue mixing.
- For older infants, the porridge can be made in milk instead of water.
- Add fruit or vegetable puree to the oats porridge. Mashed banana, apple, peach or pear puree can be added to the porridge after removing from flame. This will naturally sweeten the porridge and add varied taste and flavor to it without the need to add sugar.
Check out some interesting combinations of oats porridge for babies here.
Is it safe to give oats to the baby since it is a ‘foreign’ grain and not traditionally given to babies?
Just because oats haven’t been cultivated extensively in India they have often been viewed with skepticism and labeled ‘foreign’. Oats grow best in a cold humid climate which is why they were traditionally not grown in India since has hotter temperatures that are not suitable for their growth. They were largely given to livestock as fodder early on, but slowly even humans started consuming them in smaller amounts more as a substitute for other cereals rather than for itself.
However, in the 1980s, with the advances in nutrition, oats were labelled as healthy and they started gaining popularity. Since the western countries consumed a diet which was predominantly meat based and hence lacked adequate amounts of fiber oats was slowly included in their diets as a source of much needed alternate nutrition. Soon with liberalization, globalization and growing popularity of the internet, India too became aware of the health benefits of oats but it was largely restricted to the elite or health conscious segment of society.
There is no harm in adopting a so called ‘foreign’ food particularly when its health benefits make it worthy of being included in your baby’s diet. Oats although not traditionally given to babies in most Indian households are suitable for your baby. In fact, they are one of the few grains which are least likely to cause allergies in children. Its nutritional and health benefits merit its inclusion in the baby’s diet.
What are the health and nutrition benefits of oats?
Here are the health benefits of oats which every mom should know:
- Say no to constipation: Fiber, as we know, prevents constipation. Beta glucan is a type of soluble fiber that partially dissolves in water. Thus, the beta glucan in oats absorbs water, like a sponge, and increases the weight and water content of stool. The baby can thus pass stools easily without any pain or crying.
- Better heart health: After barley, oats have the highest amount of beta glucan. (However, barley contains gluten unlike oats and may not be suitable for babies who cannot digest it which is why oats would be preferred). This beta-glucan found in oats is responsible for lowering cholesterol and thus keeping heart healthy and hence is good for your baby’s heart in the long term.
- Better gut health: When you think of gut heath you must think of oats. Oats contain prebiotic fiber that promote the growth of healthy micro-flora in the baby’s gut. The growth of ‘good’ bacteria in the baby’s gut means better digestive health and improved immunity to fight infection.
- Healthy bones: Oats are a good source of manganese and phosphorus both of which are important for baby’s healthy and strong bones.
- Protein: Protein is needed for healthy muscles and for wound healing. Oats are a fairly good source of protein compared to other cereals like rice and wheat.
- Decreased asthma risk: Studies show that feeding infants oats early on helps decrease the risk of asthma. Most of us are already living in places with high levels of pollution and experience breathing difficulties so including oats in the diet would be beneficial.
- Good for skin: Oats contain antioxidants notably avenanthramides which is only found in oats. Avenanthramides have anti-inflammatory and anti-itching properties and provide relief to the skin irritation.
Are oats gluten free?
Some varieties of oats are gluten free and can be given to individuals who do not have the ability to digest this protein. However, oats are often contaminated with wheat and barley which contain gluten, so it is important that labels be read carefully before use. Better still give a teaspoonful of oats to your baby and if he/she doesn’t show any symptoms like stomach ache, cramps or rash, then oats can be safely given to the baby.
When should you start Oats for Babies in India?
Six months is the right time to introduce oats as your baby now has the necessary gut enzymes for digestion as well as because breast milk alone is no longer enough to meet your baby’s increased nutritional needs.
Oats are available in different forms in the market like instant oats, rolled oats, steel cut oats and so on. Which is the best type of oats for my baby? Instant vs steel cut vs whole vs oatmeal?
Yes, oats are available in different forms depending upon the amount of processing involved. The following is a list from least processed to most processed: oat groats(whole), steel cut oats (pieces of oats), oatmeal (whole flour), rolled oats and instant oats. While processing decreases the cooking time it also strips the oats of vital nutrients. In such a scenario, its best to choose steel cut oats which have the dual advantage of the ease of cooking as well as intact nutrition.
How much Oats should be given to the baby?
Introduce oats gradually to the baby. Start with a teaspoon and then gradually increase the quantity over weeks. Since oats are high in fiber, they need to be given in small amounts so as not to overload the baby’s digestive system. Oats provides the baby adequate energy along with necessary nutrients and keeps the baby satiated.
Now that we have answered all your queries pertaining to oats, you can now introduce oats to your 6-month baby without any worries or stress. Good luck!
Please leave us a comment in case of any further queries or your experience with oats, we would love to hear.