Q. “I’m worried about my baby developing a gluten allergy. So, if I delay introducing foods with gluten into her diet, will it protect her?”
— Maria, via email
A. Brooke Longfield, Healthy Food Guide Accredited Practising Dietitian, responds:
A gluten allergy, which is known as coeliac disease, is on the rise in Australia. Currently, it affects about one in 70 Australians, and many of these people don’t know they have it or haven’t been diagnosed properly. It’s important though to understand that your child is only at risk if you or your partner carry one or both of the genes associated with susceptibility to coeliac disease.
The advice on when to introduce gluten to babies has changed significantly over the past 20 years. It was previously thought that ‘at risk’ children should not be exposed to gluten until at least one year old.
However, current research indicates that the timing around introducing gluten into a baby’s diet has little effect on whether or not they develop coeliac disease. Rather, genetics is the best indicator of whether they are able to tolerate gluten.
So, there is no need to delay introducing gluten into your baby’s meals. When you’re introducing your baby to solids at around six months of age, current dietary guidelines recommend offering a variety of foods, including iron-fortified baby cereal.