Should you give rice water to your unwell baby?

If your little one is unwell, offering rice water can help to rehydrate her. Does it have other benefits?

When Veronica Lim first started weaning her daughter, Natalie, she started with mixing some lukewarm boiled rice water into her daughter’s cereal then offered it to her between meals.

“I wanted to introduce it to get her used to the taste of rice because it’s a staple for us and luckily, she loved it right from the start.”

The 38-year-old diluted the starchy liquid with water as she was concerned that it would be too thick for her daughter, who was then 7 months old. She learnt about the rice water trick from one of her mummy pals, who told her that it helped to keep her child hydrated. Indeed, parents believe that offering rice water to their children has various health benefits.

SmartParents spoke to Mount Elizabeth Hospital’s principal dietitian Alefia Vasanwala and National University Hospital’s head and consultant at the Division of Dermatology, Dr Nisha Suyien Chandran, to learn the truth behind the claims…

Claim #1: It’s great for diarrhoea and nausea

WHAT? Rice water users say that the starchy mixture is great for rehydrating your infant when they are suffering from diarrhoea and nausea. Rice water will also replenish the nutrients in your tot’s body.

EXPERT SAYS Vasanwala stresses that the mixture “can only be used as rehydration fluid when the infant is suffering from diarrhoea or vomiting to replace the lost fluids, when rehydration or electrolyte solutions are not readily available”. Make sure to also bring bubba to the doctor as soon as possible as it won’t treat their diarrhoea or nausea.

Claim #2: It’s packed with vitamin B

WHAT? Niacin, riboflavin and thiamine ― different forms of vitamin B and vital for your baby’s physical and mental development ― are also found in rice.

EXPERT SAYS The nutritional content of rice water is derived from the minerals and nutrients found in the water the rice had been boiled in, Vasanwala explains. “Hence, it is difficult to ascertain the nutritive value of the rice water.”

“Rice water should never be used as a substitute for breastmilk or formula milk feeds as it contains no other ingredients.”

Claim #3: It’s a nutritional snack

WHAT? Easy to prepare and easily digestible, your munchkin’s body can readily absorb rice water’s nutrients for additional energy.

EXPERT SAYS “Rice water should never be used as a substitute for breastmilk or formula milk feeds as it contains no other ingredients,” Vasanwala asserts. Also, it does not contain enough calories, protein and minerals like sodium and potassium to support your mini-me’s growth.

Claim #4: It can moisturise your baby’s skin

WHAT? Some claim that the oils present in the rice grains can also moisturise dry patches of eczema in your cherub’s skin.

EXPERT SAYS Dr Chandran notes that rice water has mild antioxidant and moisturising properties, although there’s a lack of studies on this. “If rice water is properly and hygienically prepared, it should pose no harm when applied to baby’s skin ― it can be used as a gentle cleanser.”

How to prepare rice water

If you’re keen to try offering rice water to your baby when they are unwell, Vasanwala advises that you:

* Mix one part of rice with six parts of water.

* Use your hands to rub the rice grains.

* Pour away the white and cloudy water.

* Repeat this process until the water becomes clear.

After that, mix the rice with another six parts of water in a pot and boil, the way you would prepare porridge. Remove the pot from the stove when it’s at your preferred consistency, then cool before feeding bubs. To avoid scalding them, always make sure to test the temperature of the rice water before offering it to your kewpie.

Photo: iStock

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