Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Why to Keep a Baby Gluten Free

Gluten free baby puffs
I'm often asked why I’m keeping my baby gluten free right now. I always explain that I don’t recommend it for everyone, but there are two main reasons:

  1. I want to make sure if/when he has symptoms, we can know with more certainty that gluten is causing the issue.
  2. It’s very hard to take care of children when you’re sick, and if I had gluten tracked all over the house, I would be sick all the time.

There have been multiple studies done on the introduction of gluten to babies, and it seems when you look at all of them, they’ve concluded one thing: no one really knows. When I was first diagnosed the most prominent study I heard of said that babies were less likely to develop celiac disease if you breastfed until one year AND introduced gluten between 4 and 6 months of age. That study stuck in my mind for years so I would be “ready” when I had a baby, and I could ensure I did everything I could to avoid them developing celiac disease. Unfortunately, study after study after that one contradicted it and the others. Ultimately, there doesn’t seem to be any general consensus on it.

As with everything with children, our plan is ever evolving, but right now, we are going to keep him gluten free until he can consume it on a regular basis outside our home AND be able to convey to us that something is wrong if there is. More than likely, that means he will be gluten free until he goes to preschool or kindergarten. It could happen sooner depending on circumstances, but that seems the most likely because he can get lunch at school so I never have to handle the gluten myself. It also fulfills the requirement of him consuming gluten on a regular basis because most school lunches contain gluten daily. He will need consistent gluten consumption in order for the tests to be accurate.

Despite what some people think we didn’t make this decision to be annoying. I remember the agony I went through being sick in school all the time, and if I can avoid as much of that for my child as possible, I’m going to do that.

Do I judge parents who introduce gluten right away, never at all, or do something completely different? Absolutely not! We’ve made the decision that works best for our family, and that won’t necessarily work for all families. We personally want medical proof for our child so it’s more likely he will be compliant with the diet when he gets older and can make more decisions on his own. We feel it’s likely he could “rebel” as a teenager if we simply decide to require a strict gluten free diet with no medical basis. Research shows first degree relatives of those with celiac disease have a 1 in 22 chance of developing it themselves. The odds aren’t exactly in his favor, but we don’t want to restrict his diet unnecessarily if we don’t have to.

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