Your Baby and Gluten: A guide to protecting against Coeliac Disease.

First of all, congratulations!! We know having a baby comes with a million questions so we have devised this guide to help reassure you in the steps you can take to prevent gluten intolerance in your newborn when weaning. If you or someone in your family has an intolerance to gluten it is important to take extra steps with your new baby to try and prevent them developing coeliac disease, as your baby may have a genetic disposition to the disease.

Whether you choose to breast or bottle feed your newborn, gluten intake is something you don’t need to worry about. Newborn baby formula contains no gluten, and if breastfeeding you yourself do not need to stop or cut down your gluten intake. According to a recent study by the Coeliac Society of Ireland, “Offering gluten before 3 months or after 7 months may increase the risk of coeliac disease.” These findings are specific to babies who have been breastfed. If breastfeeding, it is best to introduce gluten to your baby in the 4 to 7 month gap.

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When weaning your baby onto solid foods there are a variety of simple gluten friendly foods to introduce them to. recommends using Weetabix as one of the first foods to wean your baby on. They are high in gluten, a good source of fibre and contain very low sugar content. It is recommended you introduce gluten at a slow rate, gradually introducing the levels of intake over a 4 to 6 week period.

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The introduction to gluten before 7 months but after 4 months does not have a proven success for those children who may have the intolerance in their family. It can, however, delay the onset of the disease. A study by the Italian Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition has shown the effects of introducing gluten to a child between the recommended ages of 4 to 7 months. By following a group of over seven hundred children from weaning babies to 10 year olds, the group surmises that gluten intolerance was delayed in those children with a genetic disposition to the disease when introduced to gluten when weaning.

So what conclusions can we make from these findings?

1. The right time to introduce your baby to gluten is between 4 and 7 months, no sooner or later.
2. Whilst this is the recommended age, there is no proven research that suggests this prevents a gluten intolerance, but can aid in the delay of the disease later on in your child’s life.
3. It is best to stick to gluten rich foods that are low in sugar and salt when weaning.
4. Gaps between these gluten foods should be given, (using breast milk or formula to feed) between 2 to 3 days is recommended to see if any reaction occurs. 
5. The introduction to gluten is a process to be spread over 4 to 6 weeks in your child's weaning process.