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Guide to gruels

Infant gruels are a very important part of your baby's diet. They supply to the demanding body of your baby components necessary for his correct development, including calcium, iron, magnesium, and are supplemented with vitamins, omega-3 acids and probiotics. However, one brand of infant gruel does not always equals another, and not everything proposed for babies by producers is the best option for them. Read our guide to gruels.
Edited by LOVI | 19 March 2014

First gruel

Infant gruels are introduced into the baby's diet when it is expanded with new food products, other than mother's milk/infant formula. The feeding scheme for breastfed infants recommends to expand their diet no earlier than after the 6th month of life, while according to the feeding scheme for infants fed with formula their diet should not be expanded before the end of the 4th month. When precisely, it is an individual thing, a lot depends on a baby's willingness to accept dietary novelties and his tummy reaction to them. Certainly, you should not delay it for too long, as the infant gruel can be both an independent wholesome meal, and  an excellent supplement of dessert fruit purees.

We should start with gluten-free and milk-free gruel without any fruit added - the best option are rice, millet and corn. First gruel should be prepared with mother's milk (preferably, freshly extracted), infant formula (the same as used for normal feeding) or boiled spring water.

In practice, usually when preparing the gruel, we decide about desired texture by adding more powder. However, at the beginning, to avoid stomach ache or constipation, we would recommend strict adherence to producer's recommendations. Only when you are sure that your baby tolerates specific gruel well, you can try to feed him with slightly thicker food.

First liquid gruel can be given to the baby from a bottle with a special teat, but after a short time it is better to move to feeding with a spoon, as it is more natural and helps in a correct development of the speech organ and occlusion.

Milk-free gruel

As the name indicates , they do not contain milk or, more precisely: lactose from cow milk. They should be prepared with mother's milk, infant formula or water/milk replacer for allergic babies.

Milk-based gruel

They already contain infant formula so they are made ready by just adding water. You should use spring, low-mineralized water; it is recommended to boil it and cool to about 38°C before preparing the gruel.

Gluten-free gruel

They are labeled with a sign of a crossed-out ear of corn or a claim of packaging stating: "Gluten-free" or "No gluten"

Gluten - cereal protein - is not found in:
rice;
corn;
millet grout.

These products are safe for children of up to 9 –10 months of life, and those at a risk of or with diagnosed gluten allergy.

Gluten-based gruel

Gluten in a baby's diet
 

- tips from midwife Kamila Kotowicz

Gluten should be introduced into baby's diet in small, gradually increased amounts (2–3 g of gluten gruel per 100 ml of food), during breastfeeding between 5–6 month of life, and in children fed with formula in 6 month. If you miss that moment you should wait with introducing gluten until 9 or 10 month of baby's life.

 

They are recommended for children after 10th month of their life, provided gluten was introduced earlier as a part of so-called exposure to gluten so the baby gets used to it and develops immunity to its effect.

Gluten is present in the following cereals:
wheat,
barley,
oats,
rye.

There are single and multi-cereal gruels available on the market. You should give them to the baby, as they are a rich source of fiber, carbohydrates and protein. We recommend those based on whole grain cereals, also called whole-meal, as their content of natural nutrients is the highest.

Gruels with additions

The value of gruels comes not only from cereals (iron, magnesium, calcium, vitamins B, E and PP), but also from ingredients added by producers. Many gruels are additionally enriched with vitamins A, D, and K, elements like zinc and selenium, probiotics (beneficial bacteria supporting bacterial flora in the digestive system and strengthening baby's immunity) and prebiotics (creating optimal conditions for probiotic functions). You should look for these healthy additions when selecting a gruel.

Producers also think about attractive flavouring of their products for the youngest consumers. So they offer gruels containing fruit, in the form of dry fruit flakes or powdered juice. These products are a good option for teaching the baby new tastes so he can get used to them.

Sugar-free gruel

Caution to parents! Read labels and claims on gruel packaging! Unfortunately, many food products intended for children contain a lot of white sugar. This also applies to gruel. They are sweet, guaranteeing the children will like them, but they are not healthy, as they contribute to excess of sugar in the diet, which may lead to obesity, caries and many other diseases.

Fortunately, you can also find gruels without white sugar, which, however, are not completely devoid of sugar so they are sweet and children like them, because they contain natural sugars: lactose from milk, glucose and fructose from fruit.

Bio gruel

The "bio" (or organic) label means that gruel was prepared of products (cereals, fruit) cultivated without artificial fertilizers and pesticides, which were not genetically modified or irradiated. Additionally, organic gruel is usually made of whole-grain cereals, so the used grain contains cereal germ and outer layers, and natural valuable components (protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals) are not removed .

Gruel in a jar or a carton

Ready-to-serve gruels in a jar or in a carton are equally valuable meal as these prepared from powders. They are an ideal solution during a journey, on holiday or on longer walks. It is good to warm them in a water bath or use a

heat pack before serving them to the baby.

Mashes

Mashes, possibly a little undervalued by mums, can be an excellent alternative to gruels, and they also have other uses. Mashes should be prepared with formula or mother's milk. Rice and corn mashes do not contain gluten, have neutral taste, and delicate semi-liquid texture. This all means they can be given to the baby as an alternative to first gruels, give him energy, fill his tummy and start to prepare him for new texture of food. For older babies they are an excellent addition to fruit purees or a soup thickener.


Is a manufacturer of the formula used in a gruel important?
 
 - replies Danuta Chrzanowska-Liszewska MD, neonatologist
 
Gruels are introduced to teach the baby to chew and not only to suck. Gruel is a thicker product, more filling. Usually, gruels are prepared with formula. It does not matter who produced the gruel. You can change them and give to the baby to enrich his menu. Giving a formula from one company and not changing it (when it is well-tolerated) is important in the first 3–4 months of a baby's life. As it is known, at this age milk is the most important food for your baby, and he receives formula first eight, then six times a day. Gruel is served once a day, sometimes twice, when your baby is a little "snacker".
 
Summing up: water-based gruel is given mainly to babies with allergies or those with intolerance to cow milk proteins. All other children who eat a normal formula, can eat gruel with a formula: corn, wheat, or rice gruels.

 

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