If there is already a coeliac in the family, the arrival of a new baby means you’ll need to follow some special steps when weaning your child and introducing solids.
Newborns can be breast fed or bottle fed. Research suggests that breast-feeding may protect against the development of coeliac disease in babies at increased risk due to coeliac disease in the family. However, it’s not clear if this protection is permanent or if it simply delays symptoms.
For mothers who choose to breast-feed there is no need to follow a gluten-free diet unless she is a coeliac. And for mothers who choose to bottle feed there is no need to worry about gluten intake as all infant milk formulas are gluten-free.
New guidelines have recently been developed for weaning babies at risk of coeliac disease who have been breast-fed. It appears that the best time to introduce gluten into your baby’s diet is between 4-7 months. Offering small amounts of gluten during this time frame while continuing to breast-feed seems to offer protection for your baby against developing coeliac disease. Offering gluten before 3 months or after 7 months may increase the risk of coeliac disease.
These guidelines did not make recommendations for babies given formula milk and so you should wean your baby onto solids as per normal guidelines (i.e. 4-6 months) but hold off on including gluten in the diet until after six months. After this it is important to include gluten in normal amounts daily, so that if coeliac disease does develop the blood test and biopsy will be conclusive.
If your baby is diagnosed with coeliac disease there is a large range of gluten-free baby foods available which are listed in the Food List.