Should Babies Avoid Grains Before 12 Months?

Whether it’s advice from your best friend, mother, or mother-in-law, everyone has an opinion on what to feed babies before they’re 12 months old. Many people believe giving babies grains too early in life can create problems. It’s true that food allergies are increasing in children, but is that caused by introducing allergens too early or not? Top allergens, like eggs, peanuts, seafood, soy, tree nuts, milk, and wheat, could be caused by an early introduction, but studies have found they also might be prevented.

When does early introduction reduce the risk of allergies?

Breastfeeding babies tend to be more protected from the risk of all types of food allergies. Studies indicate that if a baby is breastfeeding, the best time to introduce a prominent allergen, like grains, is between 4 and 6 months. In breastfed babies of that age, it lowers the risk of developing an allergy. It’s not all about allergies when it comes to grains. It’s more about gluten intolerance and the digestibility of grains. One study focused solely on grains and found that introducing them late, after approximately 6 months, whether breastfeeding or not, increased the risk of a wheat allergy.

Food allergies and celiac disease are two different conditions.

Food allergies come from the body reacting to specific proteins in the food, such as gluten in wheat. Celiac disease is quite different. It is an autoimmune disorder that causes the small intestines to react because of gluten in grains and if not addressed, can cause permanent damage to the lining of the small intestines. Contrary to more common belief, two studies on babies from families with a history of celiac disease showed not only did early introduction not increase the risk of developing it, but if grain containing gluten were introduced between 4 and 6 months, it reduced the risk.

Giving babies grains before 12 months provides other benefits.

Most grains given to babies are enriched, which boosts the levels of thiamine, iron, riboflavin, and fiber. Some of these nutrients are found in other foods, but those foods aren’t nearly as palatable, like liver, and some babies won’t eat them. When introducing grains, choose products fortified with iron. Look for those with whole grains or whole grain flour, no sugar added, and low or no salt. Oatmeal, quinoa, and non-rice baby cereal are a few options.

  • If wheat is introduced between 5 to 7 months, the risk of developing a wheat allergy is the lowest, making it the best time to add grains to a baby’s diet.
  • Grains contain starch. Starch requires enzymes to digest. Babies have only a fraction of the enzyme compared to adults but start producing an adequate amount at about six months.
  • One reason babies that breastfeed have an easier time digesting food is that mother’s milk provides many of the enzymes necessary for digestion for up to 12 hours.
  • Based on all recent studies, avoiding grains before 12 months may be a mistake for mothers and unhealthy for babies. Offering babies a wide variety of grains dense with nutrients before 12 months is a good idea.

For more information, contact us today at Iron Fit San Antonio

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