Can My Baby Have Cheerios?

baby eating cheerios

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Beloved by both children and adults, Cheerios can make a great morning meal or midday snack. But since cereal seems like a choking hazard—after all, it’s solid, small, and round—it’s no wonder many parents wonder when it’s appropriate to introduce Cheerios to their baby. 

As it happens, Cheerios are perfectly safe for babies who reach certain developmental milestones, according to Mark R. Corkins, MD, division chief of pediatric gastroenterology at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Tennessee. And because they are free of common food allergens, they're an ideal early food.

Here’s what you should know about introducing your baby to Cheerios, besides the fact that the majority of them will likely end up on the floor.

Are Cheerios Safe for My Baby?

Of all the foods you can feed your baby, Cheerios are one of the safest when served to babies who are developmentally ready—more on that later. Read on to find out why. 

They're Not a Choking Hazard

Like many kinds of cereal that get soggy when they spend too much time in milk, Cheerios melt when they get wet, such as when they touch your baby's tongue, Dr. Corkins says. For that reason, he doesn’t consider them to be a choking hazard. 

You don’t have to worry about rogue Cheerios your baby might find weeks after they roll beneath the couch, either. “Stale Cheerios aren’t a choking hazard, they just don’t taste as good,” Dr. Corkins says. 

They Probably Won’t Make Your Baby Sick

Eating any finger food with dirty hands can carry bacterial and viral exposure to the mouth. So how much do you have to worry about germs once your baby begins eating food like Cheerios with their hands? “Not too much,” Dr. Corkins says—especially if you wash your baby’s hands with regular soap and water for 20 seconds before serving their cereal (or any foods, for that matter).

They're Free of Common Allergens

If allergies scare you more than a germ here and there, rest assured that you don’t have to worry about the cereal triggering a reaction. Per the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), milk, egg, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish, and shellfish are the top allergens in children.

The main ingredient in Cheerios is whole grain oats, which aren’t on the list. “Original Cheerios do not contain any common food allergens,” confirms Angela Tsuang, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics in the division of allergy and immunology at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine. Stick to regular Cheerios, though. Honey Nut Cheerios contain almond, which is a tree nut, and honey, which should not be given to infants before 12 months of age.

Every baby is different. Be sure to consult with a pediatrician if you have any questions about giving your infant Cheerios.

Benefits of Giving Your Baby Cheerios

While Cheerios are far from the only breakfast food or snack you can feed a baby, there are lots of reasons parents of young children consider the cereal a pantry staple.

They're Nutritious

A good source of whole grains, Cheerios are a healthy choice, Dr. Corkins says. He also likes that they have minimal added sugars since reducing sugar intake early on can help establish your child’s taste preferences so they make healthier food choices down the road.

They Help Babies Develop the Pincer Grasp 

Cheerios can be helpful tools for babies to master self-feeding. Babies are born without the ability to pick things up and need all the practice they can get, according to Dr. Corkins. Every attempt to get a Cheerios from the high chair tray into the mouth can help a baby develop their first functional grasp: the pincer grip, which is performed by squeezing with the thumb and forefinger. 

“The goal with early eating is to teach babies to eat independently,” Dr. Corkins says. And Cheerios are just one food that babies can eat on their own, that is, as long as you don’t mind spending your child’s formative years picking up fallen O’s. 

They're Iron Fortified

Like most breakfast cereals, Cheerios are fortified with iron—a good thing considering young children can become deficient, which can lead to anemia, a condition that limits the ability of the blood to carry oxygen. “Babies double their weight by four or five months of age and triple it in a year,” Dr. Corkins explains. “They need iron to make new red blood cells as their blood volume rapidly increases.” 

When and How to Introduce Cheerios

Per the CDC, you can start introducing solid foods to your child at around 6 months old, or once they show developmental signs of readiness for solids. Some such signs include: moving objects toward their mouth, showing head and neck control, sitting up all by themselves or with minimal support, and opening their mouth when they are offered food.

The age when an infant is ready to try Cheerios is dependent on their individual development, according to Dr. Tsuang. The AAP suggests a baby is ready for finger foods when the baby can sit up unsupported and bring their hands to their mouth.

This usually happens around 8 to 10 months old, according to Dr. Corkins, who warns not to introduce the cereal too early since younger babies may not have the chewing skills they need to tackle solid foods. Remember that your baby will get to taste all foods in due time, so there’s no need to rush it. 

A good way to gauge the appropriate serving size of any food is to take a look at your fist, Dr. Corkins says: a baby’s fist equates to about 1/8 to 1/4 cup of Cheerios, so feel free to begin there. The serving size listed on the Cheerios box suggests 3/4 cup is appropriate for kids ages 1 to 3. 

A Word From Verywell

Babies can enjoy Cheerios after they can sit without assistance and bring food to their mouths. Expect your baby to be ready no earlier than 8 months of age, though all babies develop at different paces. As usual, ask your baby’s pediatrician if you have any questions about when or what to feed your child.

7 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Elizabeth Narins
Elizabeth Narins is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer, editor, and social media strategist whose favorite workout is chasing her toddler. Her work has been published by Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Parents, Health, Bustle, and more.