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Why babies CAN digest starches and cereals.

Infant feeding has become a complicated topic and Dr Google doesn't help to simplify things.

I was recently given an article by one of my mommies on why babies shouldn't be given starches/cereal before the age of one. It was a convincing read but as dietitians it is our role to provide you with EVIDENCE BASED nutrition information. I thought I'd share my response...I'm sure there are lots of moms in the same boat.

This very convincing article stated that babies cannot digest and should not be given starches before the age of one because of low levels of pancreatic amylase. Amylase is the enzyme used to break down starch. What was not mentioned in this article however is the fact that amylase is not just found in the form of pancreatic amylase and amylase is not the only enzyme used to break down carbohydrates.

  • Alpha amylase is found in saliva.  Scientific papers have shown that babies have nearly adult levels of alpha amylase by 3 months! 

  • Babies will receive a considerable amount of amylase from breast milk (if they are breastfed).

  • Babies produce another type of amylase in the small intestine, called glucoamylase

  • Cells that line your intestines make enzymes called maltase, sucrase and lactase, each able to convert a specific type of sugar into glucose.

Rice cereal is a good grain to start with and I recommend the use of rice cereal for those babies starting solids before 6 months due to its low allergenic potential but there is evidence proving gluten safe for introduction after 4 months. 

I hope that clarifies things on the grain front and helps you feel more confident going forward with them!  

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