Sunday, September 18, 2016

Baby Without Gluten

When I look back at the last year, it’s almost as if I dropped off the face of the earth for the last year (mostly). Where have I been? I had a baby. Long story short (which will be explained in further detail later in another post)... I went through multiple tests to figure out why we were having trouble conceiving after two years of trying in the spring of 2015... which led to fertility treatments for unexplained infertility  in July of 2015... which resulted in me finding out I was pregnant on August 1, 2015... which led to a “normal” pregnancy including morning sickness until the day after Thanksgiving when I went to the ER with horrendous side and back pain... which led to a diagnosis of either kidney stones or hydronephrosis... which caused me to be on modified bed rest to keep the pain under control by laying only on my left side for over three months until I went into labor over four weeks early... and now I have a bouncing baby boy who is six months old. Whew! It’s been a year.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends solids are not introduced until six months of age (as opposed to the previous four month recommendation). Our pediatrician agrees with this recommendation, so we just got the go-ahead to start solid food at his check-up this week after six months of exclusively breastfeeding and pumping.

Normally, the first foods you would give a baby in the United States would be a type of grain cereal such as rice or oatmeal. I haven’t paid a lot of attention to the controversy concerning arsenic in rice, but I am aware of it enough that I knew what the pediatrician was referring to when she said she didn’t recommend rice cereal for this reason. My husband and I had discussed how we wanted to go about introducing gluten enough for me to realize oatmeal could be a problem. I didn’t want to sound like a complete fruitcake, so I held off on voicing my concerns regarding finding a gluten free baby oatmeal. There were a lot of things to consider, and I simply hadn’t done my research:
  1. Is there a gluten free baby oatmeal on the market?
  2. If so, do they use mechanically sorted oats or purity protocol oats?
  3. Could I make my own baby oatmeal if I couldn’t find a sufficient one already on the market?
  4. Are the baby oatmeals fortified or is it basically regular oats ground up?

After a lot of discussion, my husband and I had agreed that we would like to hold off on introducing gluten until the following criteria were met:
  1. He would be consuming enough on a daily basis that he would test positive for celiac disease if he has it.
  2. He was old enough to give us some indication something was wrong besides only fussiness and/or a concerning change in his diapers.
  3. He could consume this gluten outside of our home so it was less likely he would contaminate me.

We originally decided we wouldn’t be careful about cross contamination because we didn’t want him to grow up fearful of it if he never wound up with celiac disease. We may or may not change our minds on that, but for now, we have changed our mind and we’re going to be careful. We had some family friends staying with us and they have a daughter about the same age. She was introduced to solids while staying here, and our poor little guy wound up with a horrible eczema flare immediately after she began eating regular baby oatmeal. What started as a few minor eczema spots on his legs prior to the oatmeal exposure spread to cover his legs, back, and arms after the exposure. His chest and stomach were also starting to show signs of it. Rational thought tells me that it’s unlikely he could have been contaminated through oatmeal that someone else ate, but the timing seemed to be far too coincidental. They also tend to chew on the same toys, lay on the same blankets, etc, so it’s definitely not out of the realm of possibilities. After taking him to the doctor to confirm it was all just eczema (I'm not one to run to the doctor about everything, but rashes can be scary), she confirmed it was eczema, that it had flared, and we needed to change back any recent changes that could have triggered it. We asked our friends to stop feeding the oatmeal (at least in the house) because that was the only recent change in the home.

So for now, we’re going to be extra careful until we can do a controlled experiment to see what happens. I personally go back and forth between tolerating and not tolerating gluten free oats, so it’s possible he just can’t have oats as well.

We absolutely adore our pediatrician, and she was quite understanding of my fears. I’m actually allergic to wheat in addition to having celiac disease, so there is the potential that he’s allergic to wheat as well, and that reaction caused the eczema to flare, however she thought it was unlikely.

I know part of the reason for doing a cereal as a first food is because a baby’s iron stores start depleting around six months of age. In my research, I went to to see if I could find an alternative. I was actually quite relieved to see they also recommend various meats such as turkey, chicken, or beef because they are full of iron and nutrients. It actually listed the meat as a first food ahead of the grains. After grains, it said to try fruits like applesauce, pears, peaches, bananas, or other mashed/strained fruit or vegetables like cooked carrots, peas, and sweet potatoes.

At his check-up, we mentioned introducing a meat rather than a grain as the first food. We figured if he did well with that, then we’re going to move on to fruits and vegetables and skip over the grain entirely. We were prepared with a backup plan of starting with something like sweet potatoes to get him used to the idea of food in his mouth and then having a meat be the second or third item we try. She actually recommended starting with a few different fruits and veggies because babies rarely actually eat/swallow much of the food the first week. The original food is to get them used to the texture and having something else in their mouth. She said the texture of pureed meat can be kind of weird to a baby, and breastfed babies are still getting all of their nutrition from breastmilk anyway, so it wasn’t necessary to get the iron from food. She said once he was doing well with baby food, we could move on to trying meat.

We had discovered there are no gluten free baby oatmeals (at least that I could find), so that was not an option to give him an actual baby cereal. Our pediatrician confirmed that baby cereals are fortified, so it would not be the same thing to get gluten free oats and grind them into cereal for him.

Now we have a plan. We were gifted a couple different jars of baby food at my baby shower including sweet potatoes, prunes, pears, and carrots. We decided to start with the sweet potatoes. There was no particular reason for this besides it sounded good, and we definitely weren't going to start with prunes. Ha ha!

Baby's first food

I don’t know if our plan is the best way to do things or not, but we feel it is best for our family. We feel comfortable that we’ve done our due diligence with research and received the go ahead from the pediatrician. It also makes me feel better to know that initial food for babies is more about exploration than it is about nutrition.

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