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Gluten-Free Birdzone: Now What?

(Alternate tittle:  "Bring out yer bread!")

Now that the little bird is the big O-N-E, we have completed one year as parents.  And one year doing the gluten-free diet with our baby.  This was important to me because I felt strongly about the ties between the early introduction of gluten and type 1 diabetes diagnoses. And after doing some research and discussing this as a family, Chris and I decided to keep our BSparl gluten-free for her first year.

It was pretty easy, to be honest, keeping a little baby off gluten.  (Especially since she doesn't have celiac, so our decision was elective instead of required.) The ease came mostly from the fact that BSparl breastfed for almost six months, and didn't start on solid foods until just after she turned six months old.  All breastmilk and/or formula made for a pretty streamlined food schedule for that first half year.  When we introduced solid foods into her diet, we went with organic rice cereal and formula first, then mushed up fruits and assorted other mushed up items (like avocado and shredded chicken breast) mixed with food pouches like these from Ella's Kitchen. Her diet was pretty mushy for a good long time, since it took about 8 months for her first tooth to bust through.

Once she had some teeth, feeding her was a little easier (if easier = messier), and our options opened up a bit. However, we needed to be vigilant about reading food labels and doing the "Oooh, wait!" to relatives before they'd give the baby a snack.  For the last four months or so, BSparl has been chomping on gluten-free crackers, pasta, and puffs, plenty of fresh fruit like mango, papaya, and bananas, chicken, and avocado.  (She also had her first gluten-free cupcake on her birthday, complete with a messy little fondant bird).  She's drinking happily from her sippy cup, and today she tasted her first popsicle.  (Highly entertaining, watching her little face get all confused by the cold and then elated with the taste.) 

Gluten free bird-day cupcake.
Enjoying her birthday cupcake last week.

But she's still gluten-free, at the moment.  I haven't made the leap to wheat yet, and I'm not even sure how, or when, I should do it.  My research kept talking about "the first year" over and over again, but now that we've clocked in our twelve months, are we supposed to dip her in a pile of mini wheats and see what happens?  When are we supposed to start bringing gluten into her diet, and how do we do it?  All at once?  Bit by bit?  And is it normal that I'm nervous, and very apprehensive to make this change because I'm being inundated by The Thought

If anyone has any information on expanding our daughter's diet to include gluten, I would really, really appreciate it.  I have an appointment with our pediatrician next week, and I am also combing research journals, but I'm mostly clueless.  Has anyone in the DOC done the gluten-free route with their child and then added gluten in after the 12 month mark?  I would really appreciate any links to research, anecdotal evidence, or anything.  I've never done this before and I'm confused.  (Big shock, right?)

Thanks, you guys.  As always, your input helps me make the most educated decisions I can.

(It is important to note that I am not a doctor. Or a nurse. Or a person with any semblance of a medical degree.  What I am is a person who has been living with type 1 diabetes a long time, with a daughter who I worry may have inherited my immune system.  I'm an informed patient who is looking for more information.  So if there is research pointing towards a gluten and type 1 connection, you can bet your ass I'm going to avoid gluten for the first year, as advised.  It's not like I forbade hugs for a year.  Just Cheerios.  ;) )

Comments

Looking forward to reading replies on this particular subject! We're aiming for gluten-free for 12 months as well....but then what?? :)

Good for you. Hey if you want to see a funny face, give her a bit of yellow grapefruit. All of our kids gave this really pained look and then asked for more! Have your camera ready.

I didn't do gluten free, I skipped cow's milk from (old?) research I'd read. (Somehow missed possible gluten association info). But- I know exactly what you mean, it was very hard to just switch to cow's milk. I did it gradually, first with cheese, then yogurt and stayed away from cow's milk for the longest--- mostly because I was superstitious at that point. Frankly it was more of a emotional process for me, realizing I'd done what I could, there were no guarantees and at some point had to 'hope for the best.' I also find it comforting that if G-d forbid my child gets Type 1, they'll be fine, or better than fine, just like I am.
(ps finally introduced cow's milk when in ski town in VT, ran out of soy and father-in-law reported 'no soy milk' at store!)

My twins had a tiny bit of gluten their first year and they are about to turn two. This past year I tried to keep my head on (because nerves about "the thought" definitely would get to me) and what I did was try to just give them a non processed food diet. They eat legumes and organic beef and chicken. They eat organic veggies and fruits. Sometimes they get cheese. And a few times a week, they now get some ezekial toast (live grain bread) and sometimes they'll get a cookie or a cracker. (We have to omit a lot of foods anyway because our daughter has peanut and egg allergies) Anyway, they're both doing well and I think what helps is they love broccoli and stuff children aren't famous for liking. We just never stop trying to get them to try new foods or to try foods they haven't liked in the past. They tend to warm up to foods eventually, which is cool because it makes it easier on us to minimize gluten as long as they eat a wide range of fruits, veggies, and healthy meats/poultry. I still never know if i'm doing anything right, though. Sometimes I cry about it. lol I guess that comes with our job right?

I'm also looking forward to the replies here.

Lukas is 10 months old now (!), and we've avoided cow's milk proteins altogether based on the early advice of the TRIGR study. We did our best with gluten, but it is just in everything, you know? Even most grain cereals (rice, oatmeal) are exposed to gluten because they are manufactured in the same factories as wheat varieties. And since we, the parents, are eating gluten, it is in our kitchen and contaminating the "prep space".

If you have time, tell us more about BSparl's gluten-free cupcake. I am in 1st birthday planning mode!

Nici

No babies yet so I'm sorry I have no advice...just writing in to say she is so stinkin' cute!

1) BSparl is effing ADORABLE. Love that picture!

2) Obviously you're not going to go whole-hog. It's not like there's some switch that flips the instant her birthday rolled around. Nor are you preventing her from getting vital nutrients by keeping her from gluten, so introducing it now isn't a necessity. I think, instead, you can just relax your vigilance a bit. You visit relatives and they offer her a snack that might have gluten... and that's fine. You've got friends with babies who are happily chomping Cheerios, and you don't have to patrol to make sure they're not "sharing". Like that. Sane. Sensible.

This is very interesting to me.

I strongly believe that my daughter had celiac first. I remember the horrible GI symptoms she'd have from the time she started picking up Cheerios. She was exclusively breastfed for 6 months, and then I introduced solids...she continued to nurse until just before the age of 2, and was in DKA 3 weeks after her 2nd birthday, at the age of 24 months.

She had wicked, horrible, terrible GI symptoms -- everytime I discussed it with the pedi, they blew me off. She didn't gain any weight between her 18 month visit and her 2 year visit.

It was during that time that she had a terrible bug and ended up in the ER for IV hydration after 48 hours of straight vomiting. On that day, her fasting glucose via arm draw was 128. I questioned it...blown off again.

At any rate, she was tested for celiac in the hospital during her T1 dx. It was negative -- and continued to be negative during her annual lab draw for 4 years.

It was positive in 2008. This did not surprise me AT ALL. Diarrhea, severe tummy aches, headaches, leg pains...she was plagued with severe symptoms for YEARS. We had multiple ER visits for tummy aches and headaches because we just didn't know what else to do.

This article helps to shed a little light on why her celiac labs may have kept coming back negative:
http://americanceliac.org/celiac-disease/diagnosis/

I strongly believe that if someone would have paid closer attention to my concerns regarding her GI symptoms, we may have been able to avoid a T1 dx. I know that may sound like garbage to some folks, but the timeline of her symptoms and subsequent diagnoses are very compelling.

Anyway, I know this isn't exactly what you're looking for, but I am very interested in the dietary decisions you're making for Bird. I appreciate the research you've done!

(On a side note, I was also dx with celiac in 2009. I had ZIP ZERO NADA symptoms. I was only tested because of my daughter's dx. I would never had known if she hadn't been dx.)

OH, and before I go....Here's an easy GF cake recipe that we LOVE :) It's REALLY good...and I'd challenge any gluten lover to suggest otherwise :)
http://ayearofroses.blogspot.com/2011/03/i-make-batch-of-these-gf-cupcakes-and.html

Sorry for the novel, but thanks for listening!

I agree with Liz here. You don't have to go all out-feeding her everything that you would ordinarily eat. But you don't have to be neurotic about snacks that your family might feed her. Slow. Sane. Sensible. But if you want to start phasing it in at home, start slow. Her body's never had to digest gluten before and you don't know how long it might take for her to get used to it. A few cheerios slipped onto her tray to play with while you do dishes or something like that.

And to agree with Liz again, SHE'S SO CUTE!!!

I agree with what others have posted. I have type 1 and Celiac and i waited until about 9 months before giving my first daughter gluten (second one is only just 6 months so we haven't gotten there yet). I debated how and especially *when* to introduce the gluten for a long time. One issue, as you mentioned is lowering risk for development of either type 1 or celiac. Another issue for me was avoiding my own "gluten contamination" while feeding her. A lot of research on CD says introduce gluten between 4 and 7 months for the lowest risk for developing CD later on. The diabetes research doesn't necessarily agree for lowering type 1 risk. In the end, you have to do what is most comfortable for you.

So go slow and comfortable, like you did when you first started feeding her solids. I think we started with a little baguette (we live in France) to chew on one day, but not a whole meal of gluten.

I still haven't decided what to do with DD#2. She's having trouble enough with pureed fruits and veg for now. I'm not in any hurry to introduce the gluten!


We learned in class today that if you do the gluten free diet and want to introduce gluten, you should do it a little at a time to give the body time to start producing the enzymes needed to break down gluten. At least that's what the instructor told me. Hope it helps!!

I just have to tell you that I think BSparl is the cutest button I've ever seen! Thanks for sharing her with us - I feel like I'm her proud auntie ;-)

All this is very interesting to me, since I'm due to have my first baby in 5 weeks and DH has type 1. He's very skeptical and probably wouldn't go along with a gluten-free plan unless I really convinced him. Do any of you have links to any of the research you've seen on it? I would really appreciate it!

We have a 7 y/o (who had no diet restrictions and does not have the "gift")and twins on the way in August. I would also be interested to any links to research articles on this issue. Thanks!

Wow, so this makes me feel a little more overwhelmed about having a baby! I haven't heard anything about this! I have T1 and we are currently trying to conceive...I'm with Elissa, could you post some links to the research on this? Did you go gluten free while you were pregnant too??

I think Brenda W.'s advice ("a little at a time") is the way to go, just as introducing other foods into a child's diet. I wouldn't worry about her having to have been introduced to gluten until she starts school (or day-care, if that happens earlier). That said, I would venture you and Chris would want to make sure you knew as many of BSparl's food sensitivities as possible before throwing her into a mix of kids who eat anything and everything.
That said, it may be a moot point: how GF is a breastfed child's diet if her mom isn't eating GF at the time? (Aren't Mom's gluten-digesting proteins and remains of gluten digestion making their way to Baby through the milk anyway?)

While I don't have any advice/experience with children, I have done a lot of research into gluten for myself. While I don't have Celiac, I did make the decision to voluntarily go gluten-free about a year ago. This is based on the extensive and compelling research presented by the folks over at MarksDailyApple.com - basically the theory that human beings are not evolved to process/digest gluten, and so the body sees it as a poison, which in turn causes so many of our diseases and health problems.

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/why-grains-are-unhealthy/

I don't think the answers are all in regarding gluten or grains. But it does sound reasonable to introduce wheat products a little at a time -- and then hope for the best. I hope the Bird never develops diabetes or celiac, but at this time, there are no guarantees. Just do your best according to what seems right to you.

I noticed that Kerri put a request out for research on her Facebook page and there are some responses. Thanks!

Ok, now, I do believe that's the 97th hair bow I've counted.

Hi Kerri,

My Maja is one month younger than your Bird. She is still breastfed (I thought we would end it earlier, but she is really enjoying it and spitting out any kind of formula in my presence, when I'm absent she reluctantly takes few sips), but I didn't put her on gluten-free diet. I did some research, though not to deep I admit - and I had found these JAMA papers, consistent with "between 4-7 month window scheme.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14519705

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14519706

With older one I had planned to stick to a gluten-free diet for a year, but abandoned it.

I'm wondering why there are no newer papers on this subject, it might be that those studies are not easily reproducible. I remember also a Finnish study, where they see that cow milk exposure is important only in specific genetic variants.

Anyway, this is not relevant to your question: I agree with "start slowly" attitude.

BTW I'm diabetic biologist and mum of two girls :)
All the best,

Ania

Go ahead for another year :)

(what does she have to lose?)

:) love that picture!!!!

my son had NO GI symptoms- but once he started solids, his growth slowed WAY WAY down, and he went from happy guy to irritable short fuse guy.

Now he's GF- happy again! :)
And huge growth spurt first 4 months GF so he;s back to 50% percentile again

Hey there--I was just researching the gluten link for my own kid, who just hit seven months. Check these out; do they put your mind at ease at all?

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/20/us-gluten-diabetes-idUSTRE74J6DV20110520

http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/34/4/813.abstract

I think I may have given you the wrong link for what they are calling the BABYDIET study. use this one instead: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/34/6/1301.abstract?sid=947c3ac5-e8a1-4bb4-b3d1-b2ba9de350dd

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