Preventing Food Allergies in Year 1
Did you know what your baby eats in the first year may prevent him from developing a food allergy? It’s true. Most surprising? Avoiding food allergens, like peanuts or fish, may actually contribute to food allergies, so the latest scientific evidence suggests introducing food allergens in the very first year.
Here’s what you need to know to get started:
1. Wait until at least 6 months to introduce solids to your baby.
Most babies are developmentally ready to start solids at 6 months. Their gut is ready for complex food, their bodies have the strength to sit up, control their head, and learn to eat, and they’re interested.
Introducing solids earlier than 4 months is associated with choking, food allergies and excess weight gain later in life. Starting after 6 months has its own drawbacks: slowed growth, iron deficiency (especially for breastfed babies), delayed eating skills, and food aversion.
2. Get familiar with food allergens.
The most common food allergens for kids are called the “Big 8.” They include milk, egg, soy, wheat, peanut, tree nut, fish and crustacean shellfish. Allergies to milk, wheat, egg and soy often resolve during childhood, but peanut, tree nut, fish and shellfish tend to be lifelong.
Children who are allergic to any food must completely avoid eating it.
3. Offer food allergens before age one after checking with your child's physician .
Allergens can be introduced at the same time as other foods. Once your baby has gotten the hang of eating off a spoon or self-feeding, start offering foods such as scrambled egg (egg), poached salmon (fish), or buttery crackers that dissolve in the mouth (wheat).
The goal is to expose your baby to all the top food allergens before age one.
Even if your baby is at high risk for developing a food allergy, food allergens should be offered in the first year. Discuss a plan to introduce them with your doctor.
4. Offer foods in age-appropriate forms.
No whole nuts or globs of peanut butter! These are choking hazards. Rather, mix a small amount of nut butter into baby cereal or yogurt, or stir powdered peanut butter into pureed veggies.
Avoid fluid milk before age one. It interferes with iron absorption and should not be a replacement for breastmilk or infant formula during the first year. You can, however, offer yogurt as early as 6 months and cheese, a potential choking hazard, around 8 to 9 months.
Never offer raw egg, fish or shellfish to your baby.
5. Watch for signs of intolerance or an allergic reaction.
Hives and vomiting are the most common signs of allergic reaction in young children. However, a skin rash, swelling around the mouth or eyes and difficulty breathing are signs of a reaction and may indicate anaphylaxis. An allergic reaction typically occurs in minutes or within two hours of eating the food allergen.
If you see any of these signs, stop feeding the allergenic food. Watch for the development of more severe symptoms. If your baby had a mild reaction, give her a break from that food allergen and try again in a couple of weeks.
NOTE: In the event that your baby does experience an allergic reaction, please consult with your pediatrician.