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Wheat For Babies: Right Age To Introduce And Precautions To Take

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Wheat is a staple food and widely used as baby food as well. However, it contains gluten, which is associated with allergies. Owing to this concern, some parents delay the introduction of wheat until the baby is eight to nine months old. But is such a precaution necessary? Can delaying allergenic foods help prevent the allergy?

In this MomJunction post, we tell you about wheat for babies, its likely benefits, the right age to introduce, and gluten allergy.

Is Wheat Good For Babies?

Wheat makes a suitable solid food for babies. It is a leading source of starch, energy, and other essential nutrients, such as protein, B-vitamins, dietary fiber, and phytochemicals (1). Give them whole wheat flour and its products rather than refined wheat products.

However, you need to introduce it at the right age to avoid any unnecessary health issues.

What Is The Right Age To Introduce Wheat To Babies?

You can introduce wheat to babies around the age of six months when they are likely to consume other single-grain infant cereals. Parents might want to delay introducing wheat to prevent wheat allergy or celiac diseases. However, several research studies show that delaying allergenic foods beyond six months of age does not guarantee the prevention of allergy (2).

If you have a family history of wheat allergy or gluten intolerance,, then consult a pediatric nutritionist.

Nutritional Value of Whole Wheat Flour

Whole wheat flour is a whole-grain product that has all the three parts of the grain (germ, bran, and endosperm) intact. It also has a higher nutritional value than refined or processed wheat flour.

Below is the nutritional composition of one cup of whole wheat flour against the current recommendations of nutrients for babies (3) (4).

NameAmountUnit
Water12.42g
Energy332Kcal
Protein9.61g
Carbohydrate, by difference74.48g
Fiber, total dietary13.1g
Calcium, Ca33mg210mg (0-6 months)
270mg (7-12 months)
Iron, Fe3.71mg6mg (0-6 months)
10mg (7-12 months)
Magnesium, Mg117mg30mg (0-6 months)
75mg (7-12 months)
Phosphorus, P323mg100mg (0-6 months)
275mg (7-12 months)
Potassium, K394mg500mg (0-6 months)
700mg (7-12 months)
Sodium, Na3mg120mg (0-6 months)
200mg (7-12 months)
Zinc, Zn2.96mg2mg AI (0-6 months)
3mg (7-12 months)
Manganese, Mn3.399mg
Selenium, Se12.7µg15µg (0-6 months)
20µg(7-12 months)
Thiamin0.297mg12µg
Riboflavin0.188mg1.7mg (0-6 months)
1.8mg (7-12 months)
Niacin5.347mg24µg (0-6 months)
32µg (0-12 months)
Pantothenic acid1.011mg125mg(AI) (0-6 months)
150 mg (7-12 months)
Folate, total28µg
Choline, total31.2mg

Sources: U.S. Department of Agriculture and World Health Organization

The diverse nutritional composition of wheat makes it one of the best foods to include in your baby’s diet. The use of wheat germ oil is also prevalent.

Possible Health Benefits of Wheat For Infants

Regular consumption of wheat and its products in recommended amounts could provide the following health benefits to the baby.

  1. Nutrients: Whole wheat is rich in dietary fiber, essential amino acids, micronutrients, and phytochemicals (5). Being nutrient-rich, and also containing adequate carbohydrates increases the satiety value of whole wheat.
  1. Energy: 100 grams of wheat provides 332 kilocalories. High-energy grains such as wheat can help provide energy to babies for their rapid growth and development.
  1. Digestive health: Whole wheat is rich in dietary fiber, such as cellulose and hemicellulose. These insoluble fibers add bulk to the diet and regulate the bowel movements, which could keep constipation at bay (6) (7).
  1. Gut health: Whole wheat contains insoluble fibers such as beta-glucan and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as acetate. Both these components are potential probiotics that help enhance the gut microbiota (8).
  1. Oral health: Wheat-based foods have thick granules that require chewing, which can be a good exercise for the jaw and gums. It can aid in the healthy development of the oral cavity.

Wheat can support the healthy development of your baby, if you make it part of a balanced diet.

Possible Side-Effects Of Wheat For Babies

The following are the likely side effects of wheat for babies.

  1. Antinutrients: Whole wheat, like several other grains, consists of some antinutrients such as phytic acid. Antinutrients are nutritional compounds that interfere in the absorption of other nutrients and make them unavailable for use (9). Soaking and fermenting of wheat can reduce these antinutrients.
  1. Irritable bowel syndrome: IBS is a metabolic condition in which the baby might experience recurrent abdominal pain, bloating, and disturbed bowel movements. Sensitivity to wheat could be one of the reasons for this (10). Pediatric consultation is a must to manage IBS.
  1. Wheat allergy: It is a condition in which an individual gets allergic to a certain protein found in wheat. General symptoms of wheat allergy are hives, skin rash, nausea, sneezing, and headache (11). Most wheat allergies resolve during early childhood.
  1. Celiac disease: This complex autoimmune disease occurs when the ingestion of gluten causes damage within the small intestine. It is prevalent in genetically predisposed individuals. Symptoms include vomiting, bloating, irritability, poor growth, diarrhea with very foul stools, malnutrition, and poor weight gain (12).

Babies with wheat allergy or celiac disease require complete elimination of wheat and wheat products from their diet.

Precautions To Take While Feeding Wheat To Babies

These precautions can help prevent any adverse effects of wheat consumption.

  1. Buy organic flour from a reputable store so that its quality could be assured.
  1. Start feeding wheat only once your baby has started eating single-grain solids such as rice and oats.
  1. As you begin feeding, follow a three to five-day wait rule to mark any signs of allergy or intolerance. If you notice any adverse effects, then discontinue feeding and consult a doctor.
  1. In the beginning, keep the quantity as small as one to two teaspoons. Once the baby gets comfortable, you may increase the quantity.
  1. Avoid using white flour or refined flour. Instead, prefer whole wheat flour that is rich in dietary fiber. High fiber food might be difficult to digest in the beginning. Therefore, make your baby drink enough water.
  1. Do not leave wheat flour near your baby. Wheat flour, when accidentally inhaled, could disturb the nasal passage and enter the bloodstream directly. It could trigger the immune system, thus resulting in an allergy.

While following these precautions, you may add a variety of wheat recipes to your baby’s weaning diet.

Ways To Include Wheat In Your Baby’s Diet

You can try these recipes and various others based on the age of the baby.

  1. As the baby starts weaning, you may introduce wheat through fortified wheat cereals, such as Cerelac
  1. You may also mix breast milk or formula milk in wheat-based cereals for infants. However, read the instructions given on the pack.
  1. Start with simple recipes like wheat porridge or mashed wheat mixed with dal (lentil) water or vegetable puree.
  1. As the baby gets comfortable with the grain, you may try introducing other wheat preparations, such as broken wheat porridge, bread, pasta, pancakes, and crackers.

Below are a couple of simple wheat recipes that you may try for your infant.

Wheat Recipes For Babies

These recipes are easy to prepare and provide nutrition to your little one.

1. Wheat porridge


Image: Shutterstock

It can be given to babies who have just started eating solid foods. Along with wheat, this recipe also contains yellow gram and almond powder. You can customize this recipe as per your baby’s preferences.

You will need:

  • 2tbsp wheat flour
  • 1tsp yellow gram powder
  • 1tsp almond powder
  • 1tbsp powdered jaggery
  • 1 cup water

How to:

  1. Take the wheat flour, moong dal, and almonds in a thick bottom pan.
  1. Place the pan over medium heat and dry roast all these ingredients for five minutes. Continue roasting until the color of the ingredients changes to light brown.
  1. Let the ingredients cool and then transfer to a blender. Blend until it turns into a smooth powder.
  1. Sieve the powder to remove any chunks. Keep it in an airtight container and store the container in the fridge.
  1. To make porridge, add ½ cup of water and powdered jaggery to a vessel and boil until the jaggery melts. Filter the jaggery water through a strainer into a saucepan.
  1. Add the ingredient mix to the saucepan and mix everything slowly with a whisk. Make sure there are no lumps.
  1. Place the saucepan on a medium flame. Stir and cook until the porridge reaches the desired thickness.
  1. Serve while still warm to your baby. You can try adding fruit puree or mashed fruits like apple, banana, and papaya to this porridge.

2. Broken wheat porridge (Dhaliya)

Image: Shutterstock

Once your baby is comfortable with wheat porridge, you may try feeding broken wheat porridge or dhaliya that is slightly granular. Since this recipe contains cow milk, it is suited for babies older than 12 months.

You will need:

  • 2tbsp broken Wheat
  • 1tsp dried fruit powder
  • 1tbsp jaggery powder
  • 2 cup water
  • 1 cup cow’s milk (whole)

How to:

  1. Boil cow’s milk and keep it aside. If your baby has a milk allergy or lactose intolerance, then you may skip the milk.
  1. Take two tablespoons of broken wheat in a pressure cooker with 3/4 cup of water and pressure cook it for three whistles.
  1. Add one-third cup of water to a pan and add to it the powdered jaggery. Boil the mixture until the jaggery melts completely. Filter the mixture using a strainer and set it aside.
  1. Take a pan and pour pressure cooked broken wheat, dried fruit powder, boiled milk, half cup water, and jaggery water into the pan.
  1. Put the pan on medium heat and cook the mixture while stirring constantly.
  1. Once you see the milk getting thick, lower the flame and cook with the lid closed for two to three minutes.
  1. Switch off the flame once broken wheat softens, and the porridge consistency is smooth. You may adjust the consistency as per your baby’s preference.
  1. Serve it to your baby while still warm.

Wheat is an energy-rich cereal grain that makes a good addition to your baby’s diet unless they have gluten sensitivity. The grain contains essential nutrients and phytonutrients. Choose whole wheat over its refined alternatives so that your baby gets to consume dietary fiber recommended for the age.

References:

1. Peter R. Shewry and Sandra J. He; The contribution of wheat to human diet and health; National Center For Biotechnology Information
2. When should I introduce wheat into my baby’s diet?; Healthy Children; American Academy of Pediatrics
3. Wheat flour, whole-grain, soft wheat; Food Data Central; USDA
4. Feeding and nutrition of infants and young children; WHO
5. Shewry PR; Wheat..; National Center For Biotechnology Information
6. Chen HL et al.; Mechanisms by which wheat bran and oat bran increase stool weight in humans; National Center For Biotechnology Information
7. DavidTopping;Cereal complex carbohydrates and their contribution to human health; Science Direct
8. Danielle N. Cooper et al.; Does Whole Grain Consumption Alter Gut Microbiota and Satiety?; National Center For Biotechnology Information
9. Are anti-nutrients harmful?; Harvard T.H Chan
10. Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Children; NIH; US Department of Health and Human Services
11.Wheat Allergy; American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
12. Celiac Disease in Children; Celiac Disease Foundation

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