Once we found out we were pregnant, we starting doing a lot of worrying.

Well, I started doing a lot of worrying. My husband starting saying a lot of this:

Think good thoughts.

Still, despite his resistance, I persisted. (I’m good like that.)

I worried that my body was too old to make a healthy baby. I worried that my mind was too immature to be a good parent. I worried about every possible disease, deformity and disorder I’d ever heard about. I worried we might have a girl. I worried we might have a boy. I worried we couldn’t afford baby gear, or baby adolescence or baby college. I worried that all my worrying might be affecting my little unborn baby’s brain, giving it an unhealthy predilection for time-consuming, completely unproductive worry.

I’m not even scratching the surface here…

Amongst all my gargantuan worry, my husband did finally voice a concern. On the ride home from the umpteenth ob-gyn check-up, he wondered aloud,

What if the baby has celiac?

That was one thing I hadn’t yet thought to worry about.

Celiac might be kinda hard, for a kid, don’t you think?

Um, I hadn’t thought about it. I was diagnosed with celiac in 2007 and it’s genetic, so he did have a point worth wondering. (Oh, I hate when that happens!)

What would it be like to feed a child with celiac disease? I got to Google-ing as soon as I could. Turns out, a gluten-free childhood had a whole separate set of challenges different that those of adults that I hadn’t thought about.

Allergy and food intolerant children wind up feeling left out at food-centered events (say, a classmate’s birthday) and have to carry gluten-restriction notes in their lunch boxes, for instance. Not to mention how terrible it’d be to watch your little one suffer the results of a food indiscretion.

Now I was worried.

Adult arriving at dinner party with flourless chocolate tart that, by the way, is gluten-free = kinda chic. Child having to tote their own gluten-free hotdog bun in a brown paper bag to Yankee Stadium  = not too chic.

Yes, my husband was right: navigating the gluten-free diet might be kinda hard for a kid. How would I keep all the tummy-torturing gluten away from my gluten-intolerant child? I pictured myself pinning a note to the cute little onuses I’d already stocked the dresser with.…

Please do not feed!
Severe gastro-intestinal distress may occur.

Of course, I was getting way ahead of myself. WAY, way ahead of myself. Not only had my baby not yet been diagnosed with celiac, my baby had not yet been born. At this point, I was just trying to get through the last couple months of my pregnancy eating twice as many fruits and vegetables (and at least half the amount of Nutella) as I did during the first three months.

Fast forward a few months and a whole lot of  Internet digging….I made a discovery.  There was something I could do something to lower the risk of my baby ever developing celiac.

Wonder what I found out?

Children with a predisposition to the celiac (i.e. one or both parents have it) have a lower risk of developing the disease if they are:

  • Breastfeed for six months or longer (this you may or may not be able to do, depending on a whole set of circumstances)
  • Introduced to gluten-containing foods between 4 to 6 months (this is the easier of the two to nail, for sure)

Why do I trust this advice? Because it is based on the results of a study done by Peter Green, M.D., the director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University. If you’re interested in all the nitty gritty, you can read the full text of the study here:

Armed with the above info, I (rather unceremoniously) gave Isla a spoonful of Earth’s Best Organic Whole Grain Multi-Grain Cereal on the morning of January 9th, her fifth-month birthday. And then another, and then another. She wasn’t too impressed. In fact, this is her right after breakfast.

Her lack of impression is actually GREAT NEWS. Unlike my celiac-self, who would had been doubled over in pain after a bowl of whole grain cereal, Isla carried on babying (i.e., rolling around, tugging her ear and exploring her mouth with her fingers) as normal. I can’t say Isla will never develop celiac but I can say that four months later, she’s still eating gluten-containing foods almost daily sans any tummy trouble.

Go Isla!

If anyone knows of any other celiac-preventing research or advice with regard to feeding children, I’d love to hear it.

Feed on happily and healthfully!