I have been meaning to write up what I’ve learnt about weaning babies for so long! I’m a coeliac parent and have two young children. Although I found a HUGE amount of information online about general baby weaning, there was nothing about the approach you should take if you are coeliac.
Having learnt some lessons the hard way, notably getting accidentally glutened a couple of times by my daughter, I thought sharing my own tips and experience would be helpful.
Let me caveat everything below by saying I am no baby weaning expert. I am simply a mum of two, who also happens to be a long time coeliac. The approach I have taken is simply what has worked best for my family. I felt quite lost when I started, as there was no guidance online.
As a result, I plan on writing a few posts about coeliac parent life, today starting at the very beginning with baby weaning. In this post I’ll cover how and when I introduced allergens (including gluten) to my children’s diets.
If you have any questions that I don’t answer in this post, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM my on Instagram or Facebook @myglutenfreeguide.
Baby Weaning & Coeliac Disease
Most parents start weaning their babies at around 6 months old, once they can:
- sit up in a highchair without needing to be supported and
- are taking an interest in food/the things you eat.
I started weaning both my children at just after 5 months, as they were big babies and were quite literally chomping at the bit to get stuck into my dinner! For others weaning may start slightly later. Have a read of this helpful Start4Life Guide to help you decide whether your child is ready or not.
I have coeliac disease and am aware that one or both of my children could develop the condition too at some point. However, I don’t want to simply assume that they will be coeliacs and I decided to follow a normal weaning journey. Introducing gluten to their diets once they were established on solids. I didn’t want to avoid gluten, because if they are able to tolerate it that would wonderful.
As I know what symptoms to look out for, I felt I would be able to quickly recognise if gluten were an immediate issue for them. Here is a helpful resource from Coeliac UK about Coeliac Disease in Children, and I’ve also detailed them below in this post, in case you aren’t sure about symptoms.
When Should I Introduce Gluten to My Baby’s Diet?
I was so nervous about introducing gluten to my daughter’s diet. However, a dietician friend told me that it is ideal to introduce all allergens before or around the 7/8 month mark. To avoid the risk of sensitivity in the future.
Allergy UK state “Delaying their introduction past 12 months may actually increase a child’s risk of developing an allergy to that food.”
How Should I Introduce Gluten?
My approach was to get my daughter established on basic solids (vegetable and fruit purees then adding starchy foods like rice and beans), which are naturally gluten free anyway, so I would know what her solid nappies should look like. It’s a change from milk poos to food poos, so give their tummies a bit of time to adapt. Otherwise you could wrongly identify something as an upset tummy when it’s just been a spinach puree day :D.
Once she was eating well (about 6 weeks into weaning), I introduced allergens one by one, saving gluten for last. I would introduce an allergen or two each week. Feeding her the allergen in small quantities for about 3 days in a row, then once she appeared to be fine with it I would move onto the next one. There’s some really helpful and detailed guidance here from Allergy UK.
Introducing allergens one at a time is important as it will allow you to easily identify any problem foods.
Luckily both kids seemed fine with all the allergens, so then it was time to introduce gluten. As I said at the start, I felt really emotional about feeding Alba gluten. I guess I know how poorly it made/makes me and didn’t want to “inflict” the same suffering on her. But I knew it had to be done.
My husband volunteered to do the actual gluten feeding in the end. We have a gluten free kitchen at home, so whenever out and about he’d give her little bits of toast or gluten-containing snacks. Luckily she seemed to be completely fine with gluten :).
How Often Do I Need to Feed My Baby Gluten?
Personally I am happy if my kids have gluten at least a couple of times a week. So many baby food are naturally gluten free, even babies in non gluten free households would not be eating gluten every day.
My husband will give our son Sebi (who is 9 months old now) a bit of gluten at the weekends, or I can do it when out and about. Gluten pasta in cafes is a good one, I managed to gluten myself accidentally when giving Alba gluten toast once…too many crumbs! And now that Alba is older she has gluten regularly at nursery, which takes the onus off me.
This is the approach that has worked well for us, but please do whatever you feel is best for your child.
What Sort of Reaction to Gluten Should I Be Looking Out For?
The main symptoms of coeliac disease in babies are:
- No or low growth
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Irritability (caused by stomach pain or other) and tiredness
- Bloated tummy
However, note that all, some or none of these symptons may be present. Trust your gut as a parent and if you suspect coeliac disease, make an appointment with your GP to ask for coeliac testing.
Depending on where you live, diagnosis can be done by either a blood test or a blood test and endoscopy.
If your GP dismisses your concerns, stick with your gut instinct and keep pushing for them to be tested for coeliac disease. Or ask for a referral to a paediatric gastroenterologist. I personally was dismissed by my GP for years as a child – he just told us it was “growing pains” and it took 7 years of symptoms before I was diagnosed. You can read my coeliac diagnosis story in full here.
Both my children have seemed to be okay with gluten and certainly are thriving on the growth front. However, my daughter has recently started complaining of tummy aches so I will be taking her to the GP soon. I’ll be sure to share my experiences with you.
Okay, I’m Ready to Wean, Where Shall I Start?!
Next in this series will be a post rounding up some of my favourite baby weaning recipes. I’ve a few baby purees I make regularly, as well as some finger food recipes that both my kids have loved.
I’ll also cover shop-bought pouches and snacks that are gluten free. Subscribe to my newsletter via the sign up box on the right of this page to be sure you don’t miss it! Or follow my @myglutenfreeguide on Instagram or Facebook.