Are all baby formulas gluten-free?

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. It can cause serious health issues for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. For this reason, many parents wonder if baby formulas contain gluten that could harm their child.

The quick answer is: Most, but not all, infant formulas sold in the U.S. are gluten-free. However, it’s important to read labels and check with manufacturers, as formulas containing gluten do exist.

Gluten concerns for infants

Gluten intake is generally not recommended for babies under 6 months old. At this age, an infant’s digestive system is still immature and unable to properly process gluten. Early exposure to gluten may increase a baby’s risk of developing celiac disease, wheat allergies, or gluten sensitivity later in life.

Once a baby reaches 6 months, some pediatricians advise gradually introducing small amounts of gluten. This helps build tolerance and prevents adverse reactions. Other pediatricians recommend delaying gluten until 12 months or later.

For babies who are at high-risk for celiac disease due to family history, most doctors recommend avoiding gluten until at least age 3. High-risk infants should be screened for celiac disease antibodies starting around 2 years old or earlier if symptoms develop.

Are infant formulas regulated for gluten content?

In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates commercial infant formulas under the Infant Formula Act of 1980. This law sets nutritional standards, quality control procedures, and labeling requirements.

One key provision is that formulas must contain a notice if they are not gluten-free. This includes any product containing wheat, rye, barley, or oats as an ingredient. Such formulas are not suitable for infants with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

The Infant Formula Act helps ensure parents can easily identify which products contain gluten. However, it’s still important to thoroughly read labels since not all formulas are labeled gluten-free.

Common ingredients that contain gluten

Below are some of the most common gluten-containing ingredients found in baby formulas:

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Oats (unless certified gluten-free)
  • Malt
  • Malt extract
  • Malt flavoring

Formulas may also contain traces of gluten due to cross-contamination during manufacturing. Parents concerned about this risk may prefer a formula that is certified gluten-free.

What about soy, milk, and lactose-free formulas?

Soy-based: Most soy infant formulas do not contain gluten and are safe for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. However, some soy formulas do include barley malt or other gluten sources. Checking labels is important.

Milk-based: Cow’s milk formulas are predominantly gluten-free. Some contain small traces due to cross-contamination. For infants highly sensitive to gluten, a formula certified gluten-free may be preferable.

Lactose-free: Most lactose-free formulas simply use lactase enzymes to break down the lactose in cow’s milk. They pose minimal gluten risk and are suitable for those with gluten-related disorders.

What about organic, non-GMO, and sensitive formulas?

Organic: Formulas labeled USDA Organic must avoid major allergens like gluten unless clearly disclosed on the label. However, minor cross-contamination is still possible.

Non-GMO: Going non-GMO does not necessarily make a formula gluten-free. Genetically modified ingredients do not contain gluten, so this label gives no useful information.

Sensitive: Formulas labeled “sensitive” typically avoid common allergens including gluten. However, check labels carefully for any gluten-containing grain ingredients.

Table summarizing gluten content of different formula types

Formula Type Likelihood of Containing Gluten
Cow’s milk-based Very low, unless containing grains with gluten
Soy-based Low, but check labels for gluten-containing ingredients
Lactose-free Very low
Organic Low, but gluten not 100% prohibited
Non-GMO No effect on gluten content
Sensitive/gentle Low, but still read labels

Tips for finding gluten-free formula

Here are some tips to help identify truly gluten-free infant formula:

  • Carefully read all ingredients on the label
  • Look for gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley, rye and oats
  • Avoid formulas with malt, malt extract or unspecified “natural flavors”
  • Check manufacturer websites for more formula details
  • Look for bottles marked “gluten-free” or an official GFCO certification
  • Call or email manufacturers with any questions
  • Consult your pediatrician for brand recommendations

Reputable manufacturers make ingredient lists readily available and are prepared to answer questions from concerned parents. Do not hesitate to reach out to them for assistance in identifying the best formula for your child’s needs.

Popular infant formulas that are gluten-free

Here are some of the top selling infant formulas in the U.S. that are gluten-free:

Cow’s milk-based

  • Enfamil NeuroPro
  • Similac Pro-Advance
  • Gerber Good Start Gentle


  • Enfamil ProSobee
  • Similac Soy Isomil
  • Gerber Good Start Soy

Extensively hydrolyzed

  • Similac Alimentum
  • Gerber Extensive HA

Remember to still check labels on these popular brands for any formula formulations that may differ. An individual product being gluten-free one year does not guarantee it will remain gluten-free.

Speciality gluten-free formulas

In addition to the major best-selling brands, there are smaller specialty formula companies that cater to gluten-free diets. Two examples include:

  • Baby’s Only: Organic dairy and soy formulas certified gluten-free. Use lactose from coconut oil rather than cow’s milk.
  • Kabrita: Goat milk-based formulas certified gluten-free. Goat’s milk proteins are easier to digest.

Parents can work with their pediatrician and nutritionist to decide if one of these speciality formulas may be appropriate for their child’s health needs.

Tips for transitioning to gluten containing foods

Once an infant reaches the appropriate age, typically between 6 to 12 months old, some pediatricians recommend slowly introducing gluten containing grains like wheat, barley, and rye. Here are some tips for making this transition:

  • Consult your pediatrician on the best timing based on your family history
  • Start with small amounts like a 1/4 slice of wheat bread
  • Offer gluten foods separately at first, not mixed into dishes
  • Gradually increase serving size and frequency over several weeks
  • Watch closely for signs of intolerance like vomiting, rash or changes in stool
  • Introduce one new gluten source at a time
  • Continue breastfeeding or using gluten-free formula through the transition

Transitioning slowly and monitoring reactions allows time for the digestive system to adapt. Stop gluten introduction and consult your pediatrician if concerning symptoms develop.

Finding gluten-free snacks and cereals

As solid foods replace formula in an infant’s diet, it’s important to choose gluten-free options. Here are some suggestions:


  • Fruits and vegetable purees
  • Teething biscuits and rice rusks
  • Puffs made from corn, rice or quinoa
  • Meat and vegetable-based baby food pouches


  • Rice-based cereals
  • Oatmeal certified gluten-free
  • Quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat porridges
  • Corn grits or polenta
  • Flax, chia seed or nut-based porridges

Be cautious of mixed or flavored snacks that may contain hidden gluten. Plain, single ingredient foods are safest or those marked certified gluten-free.


While many standard infant formulas are gluten-free, it is not a guarantee. Carefully reading ingredient labels and contacting manufacturers is the only way to verify a product’s gluten status. If in doubt, specialty formulas certified gluten-free are widely available.

With sound medical guidance and vigilant label reading, parents of babies with gluten issues can feel confident finding safe, nutritious formulas. Families prone to celiac disease should take special precaution by strictly avoiding gluten until at least age 2, or as advised by their physician.

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