Gluten-Free Breastfeeding Guide and Checklist

by Kazue Koyanagi

Gluten-Free BreastfeedingIf you or your baby have been diagnosed with celiac disease, it's a given that your breastfeeding diet will be gluten-free. You might wonder if there are other times that a mom might want to eliminate wheat and other gluten-containing foods from her diet.

In the United States, one out of every 133 people has celiac disease. If an immediate family member is diagnosed, your baby is at an increased risk of having celiac disease. Your pediatrician may suggest you keep an eye out for signs your newborn is affected, too.

If your baby acts fussy or colicky after breastfeeding it could have something to do with what you're eating. Especially if a sibling shows signs of gluten sensitivity, it could turn out to be an issue for your breastfeeding child as well.

Symptoms of Food Sensitivity in Babies

Breast milk gives your baby the optimal amount of nutrients and antibodies. Immunity isn't the only thing that makes it into the breast milk. Components of the food that you eat do, too. If your child has celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, wheat and some other grains in your diet can adversely affect your baby.

By switching to a gluten-free lifestyle, you can eliminate the trigger for your baby’s symptoms. When eliminating gluten from your diet, you are also eliminating other possible allergens found in wheat.

"My baby started reacting to my milk at around 7-10 days old. After several months we figured most of the food triggers but she still had nasty green poop and wasn't growing. We didn't figure out it was gluten until she was almost two years old and still nursing. We both went gluten-free and she gained five pounds in six months. All her food intolerances cleared up in a few months," Beth tells us.

In gluten-sensitive individuals, gluten damage the villi in the small intestine, which prevents proper absorption of nutrients. As a result, over time gluten intolerance can lead to symptoms in your baby arising from a deficiency of essential nutrients.

People with gluten sensitivity also exhibit symptoms more closely resembling an allergic reaction.

Symptoms of sensitivities to food or gluten in infants include:

  • Rashes (as well as diaper rash) or hives
  • Asthma
  • Colic
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Acid Reflux
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
  • Chronically spitting up
  • Failure to thrive
  • Itchy, red eyes
  • Ear infections, cold- or flu-like symptoms

Choosing a Gluten-Free Diet Checklist

Ϭ Does a sibling have celiac disease or gluten-intolerance?
Ϭ Does your baby cry after feedings more than normal?
Ϭ Did your baby's weight gain cease after starting solids?
Ϭ Does your baby spit up or vomit frequently?
Ϭ Does your baby have diarrhea or constipation?
Ϭ Do you notice rashes, red irritated eyes and other allergy signs?
Ϭ Do you crave grains or feel you must have them after a bad day?

Keep a food journal with a record of what you eat (and baby, if started solids) and baby's behavior and symptoms.

Work with your doctor and nutritionist if you think your baby reacts to gluten. They'll suggest eliminating gluten from your diet for two to three weeks and see symptoms improve. It can take from a couple days to several weeks.

Your Gluten-Free Breastfeeding Diet

You might be wondering how a gluten-free diet affects the make-up of breast milk. Will your baby get enough nutrients? Can you expect slower weight gain?

Your baby can get everything needed through your milk. While you'll be skipping certain food, replace them wisely and your baby will thrive.

Work with a nutritionist or other professional to put together a healthy and tasty menu that you and your family can enjoy.

Eat These Foods Freely!

  • All fruit, salads, vegetables
  • Potatoes
  • Rice, buckwheat, quinoa, coconut flour, gluten-free oats and corn
  • Nuts
  • Bean and lentils
  • Red meat, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy products
  • Moderate amounts of healthy fats and oils

You can include processed foods that are made without gluten, but these products don't usually offer a nutritional punch for their calories or dollars.

Your Nutrient Challenges

Being gluten-free offers its own challenges while breastfeeding. Certain key nutrients tend be lower in your diet, especially if you rely on processed gluten-free foods. You may need to work on including foods rich in calcium, fiber, folic acid and B vitamins.

Fiber: Whole grain products, fruits and vegetables and coconut flour can add fiber to your diet.

Calcium: Dairy products, meat with bones and leafy green vegetables contain calcium.

Vitamin B: Whole grains like brown rice and meat, eggs and fish are high in B vitamins.

Iron: Egg, meats and leafy greens are heavy in iron. Include these in your daily diet.

Have you monitored or eliminated gluten while breastfeeding? How did it affect your baby? Did you have positive results? Let us know!