New infant feeding advice came out from researchers in Australia and surrounding countries (known as Australasia ) discussing that it is possible waiting longer to introduce top food allergens to a baby, may not actually prevent them from developing the allergy.
I know celiac disease is not an “allergy” to gluten, but many of us who have celiac or have children with celiac waited for at least the first year to give our babies any sort of gluten products, so I thought the celiac community would be interested to hear about this research and advice. Plus, I did some additional research specifically on gluten introduction which will hopefully educate parents about our options.
The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy‘s report published this month brought up some big points I think are worth highlighting:
Exclusion of allergenic foods from the maternal diet has not been shown to prevent allergies.
Infants are unlikely to develop a new allergy to any milk that is already tolerated, if it is given regularly.
There is insufficient evidence to support previous advice to specifically delay or avoid potentially allergenic foods for the prevention of food allergy or eczema. This also applies to infants with siblings who already have allergies to these foods.
From 4-6 months: When your child is ready, consider introducing a new food every 2-3 days according to what the family usually eats (regardless of whether the food is thought to be highly allergenic.
How does this compare to advice in the US? Earlier this year the American Academy of Pediatrics backed off its previous recommendation of delaying introduction of allergens to children. Another US study found 6 months to be a good time to begin introducing certain allergens into the diet.
However, a 2005 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked much more specifically at celiac disease and introduction of gluten. It found the best time for gluten introduction was between 4-6 months. Introducing it before or after that time tended to increase the chance for celiac disease. But also breastfeeding appears to play an important role. A study out of Sweden recommended breast feeding while introducing small amounts of gluten, was an ideal way to go. A celiac group in Canada profiled the Swedish study saying “…continuing breast-feeding while gluten-containing foods (i.e., foods containing wheat, rye and barley) are being introduced into a child’s diet, protects toddlers and young children from presenting with the classic symptoms of celiac disease.”
So it’s a lot of information, what should you do? A one sentence summary says according to the research—gluten introduction for a baby between 4-6 months of age may be the best time. That timeline appears to also be good with some other food allergens as shown in the above cited studies, while other allergens could be introduced later in childhood. Clearly talk with your pediatrician, pediatric gastroenterologist or allergist about your desires and their clinical recommendations. Then you can decide what is best for you and your family.