When and How to Introduce Gluten into Your Baby's Diet
Are you concerned about how to introduce your baby to new foods? At first, it’s normal to be afraid and have many questions. One of the most frequent is when and how to introduce gluten into your baby’s diet. Here you’ll find the answers, as we’re going to reveal everything you need to know.
This is a topic that has sparked debate among the experts at the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN). That’s because gluten is among the three most common allergies and intolerances in children.
For this reason, research has taken place to evaluate the effect of advancing and delaying the intake of gluten on the appearance of celiac disease, eczema, asthma, and other respiratory symptoms that begin to appear in childhood.
The main objective was to find out if prevention is possible, especially in children at high risk because of a direct family history.
When to introduce gluten into your baby’s diet
Until 2016, the recommendation was to wait until 7 or 8 months to offer gluten. This was due to the belief that this would reduce the risk of developing celiac disease and other disorders involving this protein.
However, that same year, an important study was published. It was the largest European study on the effect of lactation and age of introducing gluten on the occurrence of celiac disease in predisposed children.
On the one hand, breastfed babies had the same risk of having the disease compared to those who drank formula. On the other hand, the study evaluated the effect of introducing gluten at different times. The researchers looked at cases where babies began consuming gluten before 3 months, from 4 to 6 months, and after 6 months.
What they observed was that, before 3 months, the risk is higher because kidney and gastrointestinal functions have yet to fully develop. This makes it difficult to digest gluten.
Taking into account the above, it’s preferable that you wait at least 4 months to give children gluten. Then, after that point, you should introduce gluten as soon as possible, even though there was no difference between the period of 4 to 6 months and 6 months.
In addition, introducing gluten before 6 months reduces the appearance of eczema before the age of 10. So, we remind you that up until 6 months, breastfeeding should be your child’s main source of nutrients. Therefore, the rest of the food will be complementary. At the same time, it doesn’t affect the appearance of asthma or rhinitis.
How to introduce gluten and in what quantities
Experts have yet to establish if there’s a safe amount in order to prevent celiac disease. However, they don’t recommend that small children consume large amounts during the first 2 weeks. To give you an idea, you should avoid exceeding quantities larger than half a slice of white bread.
In the same way, there are no conclusions regarding the type of preparation and order. However, it’s always better to start with well-baked pasta, white bread, or homemade cake without added sugar.
Once your child tolerates these preparations, substitute them with the wholegrain versions and increase the quantities little by little. In this way, your child’s digestive system will get used to it and will continue to mature.
Likewise, we advise you to avoid giving your little one ultra-processed foods on a frequent basis. These contain large amounts of sugars and trans fats that contribute to your child’s chances of becoming overweight or obese. They also contribute to the onset of diabetes and other pathologies. In fact, many recommend waiting an entire year before introducing these types of food at all.
We hope that you’re clear about how and when to introduce gluten into your baby’s diet. In addition, you need to know that if your child doesn’t have a genetic predisposition to react to this protein, then it doesn’t matter when you introduce gluten. Incorporating more and more variety in their diet is more important than the particular order in which you do it.
However, you must stay close by while your child eats to see if any reaction occurs. And, of course, to prevent them from choking. Finally, try not to distract your child or pressure him to finish everything on his plate, as little ones are capable of regulating their appetite. Or, you can also put the plate in front of your child with the bread or pasta cut into small pieces and let them feed themselves.