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Rice Water or "Am" for Baby: Benefits and Risks

Medically reviewed by Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS · Pediatrics · Philippine Pediatric Society

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jul 19, 2023

Rice Water or "Am" for Baby: Benefits and Risks

Many parents know about “am” or rice water, and how babies can have it under specific situations. However, in some areas–especially rural ones–parents use rice water to substitute breast milk or infant formula milk. What does your baby get when you feed them am? Why is am for baby given? Find out here.

What is Am for Baby?

Before explaining the potential benefits of am for baby, let’s first define what this fluid is.

Basically, am is the water we get after boiling cleaned rice. You rinse the rice a couple of times until the water is clear. This step is crucial because the surfaces of rice grains often have unwanted substances.

Then, you boil the rice until it reaches the preferred consistency. Afterward, you need to drain the rice, transfer the am into a cup, and let it cool before giving it to babies.

How parents give it to their babies differs: some give am as is, while others mix it with formula milk.

The question is, are these practices safe? What does your baby get from drinking am?

am for baby

Babies Under 6 Months Shouldn’t Have Am

As a parent, your first concern would be your baby’s safety. After all, their digestive system is still developing, and you don’t want to feed them anything that can potentially compromise their health.

Generally, am or rice water is safe when prepared properly; that is, no toxic substances are transferred from the rice grains to the water. However, you also have to consider whether or not your child has a rice allergy. At least one study noted that some protein bands in rice “appeared to be major allergens.”

But just because you prepared it properly and your baby doesn’t have a rice allergy doesn’t mean that you can give it to your child.

For instance, babies under 6 months old shouldn’t have anything other than breast milk or doctor-recommended formula milk. This is because other liquids (including water) leave them with less room for the more nutritious milk; moreover, their little tummies might not handle the substances in am.

History: Am for Baby

The history of giving am to babies stems from the 1950s when many children experienced vitamin B deficiency. Since supplements were not yet popular at that time and rice water contains vitamin B, doctors advised parents to give am to their little ones. There’s also the fact that rice water is an inexpensive oral rehydration solution after bouts of diarrhea.

These benefits spread among parents and perhaps evolved into the concept that rice water is good for babies.

Give Am to a Baby if and Only if…

As it is, there might be one reason for you to give am to your baby, and that is when they experience bouts of diarrhea, and doctor-approved oral rehydration solution packets are not available.

One study indicated that rice water was superior to glucose electrolyte solution in reducing the frequency and volume of stool output. Another research concluded that rice water with salt produces good results as an alternative rehydration therapy.

But, of course, bringing your child to the doctor whenever they experience an illness, such as diarrhea, should be your priority.

Never Use Am for Baby as a Substitute for Breast Milk

While am for baby has vitamin B, it doesn’t contain carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and other micronutrients that your baby needs for their healthy development. For this reason, parents should not use it as breast milk or formula milk substitute.

Authorities recommend nothing else but breast milk for babies. Formula milk only becomes an option when breastfeeding is not advisable, such as when the baby has galactosemia (difficulty in digesting galactose sugar) or the mother has certain infections.

How About Mixing it With Formula Milk?

Formula milk preparation is crucial in ensuring that your baby receives all the nutrients in the milk.

The amount and kind of water, for instance, matter a great deal. Too much water and your baby may not receive all the nutrients they need; too little and they might experience dehydration. Experts even discourage the use of mineral water because it might contain too much salt.

The bottom line is you need to follow the preparation instructions in the formula milk container. The only time you should modify it is if the pediatrician advises you to.

Key Takeaways

You should never use am for baby as a substitute for their breast milk. If you want to use it to supplement your baby’s nutrition, talking to the doctor is necessary. After all, the amount of nutrients in the rice water depends on several factors, like how much water you use and the type of rice you have.

Learn more about Baby Nutrition here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS

Pediatrics · Philippine Pediatric Society

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jul 19, 2023

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