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Question

When should I introduce wheat into my baby’s diet?

Anthony Porto, MD, MPH, FAAP

Answer

​Wheat is the grain most often associated with food allergies. Because wheat contains gluten, parents may have concerns about when to introduce it and what (if any) effect it will have on their child.

In general, children are developmentally ready to begin solid foods between 4-6 months old. For most babies, it does not matter what the first solid foods are. Single-grain infant cereals (e.g., rice and oats) are traditionally introduced first. 

Once your baby learns to eat a few first foods, you can gradually give him or her other foods—​including high-allergy foods like wheat-containing products. Within a few months of starting solid foods, your baby's daily diet should include a variety of foods.

No need to wait or delay wheat.

There is no evidence that waiting to introduce or limiting allergy-causing foods such as wheat or other gluten-containing grains (e.g., rye or barley) beyond 4 to 6 months of age prevents food allergy or the onset of celiac disease. Wheat can be introduced most commonly in the form of infant cereal, for example as wheat or multigrain cereal.

There are 2 types of negative immune reactions to wheat:

  • A classic food allergy. Includes symptoms such as hives or wheezing immediately after a child eats a food made with wheat.

  • Celiac disease. Typical symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, irritability, poor weight gain, and slow growth. Celiac disease may reveal itself shortly after a baby has his or her first bowl of wheat-containing infant cereal, but in some cases, symptoms are so minor that the condition can smolder at a low level for years and a diagnosis may not be made until adolescence or even adulthood.

New research transformed how we approach food allergy prevention.

An important study in 2015 showed that early introduction (between 4 and 12 months) and regular feedings of foods commonly associated with allergies—particularly with p​​eanuts—may be helpful to prevent an allergy. See Peanut Allergies: What You Should Know About the Latest Research for more information.

If your child does have a wheat allergy:

Talk with your pediatrician about what the best foods are for your child. Remember to offer a variety of food, such as naturally gluten-free fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, and eggs, and gluten-free grains (e.g., quinoa, millet, amaranth).

The good news is that most wheat allergies resolve by early childhood and typically do not last until adulthood.

NOTE: The AAP recommends breastfeeding as the sole source of nutrition for your baby for about 6 months. When you add solid foods to your baby's diet, continue breastfeeding until at least 12 months. You can continue to breastfeed after 12 months if you and your baby desire. Check with your child's doctor about vitamin ​D and iron supplements during the first year. Remember that each child's readiness for solid food​s depends on his or her own rate of development. ​

Additional Information & Resources:


Anthony Porto, MD, MPH, FAAP

​Anthony Porto, MD, MPH, FAAP is a board certified pediatrician and board certified pediatric gastroenterologist. He is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Associate Clinical Chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology at Yale University and Director, Pediatric Gastroenterology at Greenwich Hospital in Greenwich, CT. He is also the medical director of the Yale Pediatric Celiac Program. Within the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Porto sits on the PREP Gastroenterology Advisory Board and is a member of the Section on Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. He is also a member of the North American Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition's Public Education Committee, a pediatric expert on nutrition for The Bump's Real Answers, and is the co-author of The Pediatrician's Guide to Feeding Babies and Toddlers. Follow him on Instagram @Pediatriciansguide.​

Last Updated
3/18/2017
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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