Starting Solids? How to Prevent Food Allergies in Babies
It’s time to introduce your baby to solid food. Get your camera ready to capture those first reactions to the tastes of something other than breast milk or formula.
Worried about what foods are safe to feed them and which ones could cause problems like allergies?
It used to be that we had quite the list of possibly allergenic foods parents were told to avoid feeding a baby! The culprits were cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, and seafood which cause 90% of food allergies. Nowadays, if your baby doesn’t have severe eczema or a known food allergy – even these foods are safe and recommended to start giving early.
Better yet, research shows we can actually help prevent some food allergies from developing by giving small amounts of these foods sooner – at around 4 to 6 months. For example, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that the latest research on how to prevent allergies in children, shows early introduction of peanut-based foods to infants helps prevent peanut allergies!
To introduce new foods safely:
- Give them one at a time at home, in case your baby has a reaction.
- Start with a very small amount. If there’s no reaction to the food after 10 minutes, you can give the rest.
- Continue to give it regularly (2 to 3 times per week) to help prevent a food allergy.
- Wait 2 to 3 days before giving the next new food. This gives your baby time to adjust to each new food. If your baby has a reaction, it makes it easier to know which food may have caused it.
- Give dairy foods (yogurt or cheese), eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, and seafood within the first few months of introducing solid food.
However, if your child has eczema, a known food allergy, or if a first-degree relative has a food allergy, talk to your pediatrician first.
Signs that your baby may be allergic to a food are:
- Vomiting or diarrhea.
- Developing a rash around mouth or elsewhere on the body including hives.
- Scratching around their mouth or pulling on their tongue.
- Swelling of skin especially of lips and around mouth.
- Breathing problems, including sneezing, wheezing, and coughing.
Sometimes reactions to foods aren’t allergies. Talk with your pediatrician to learn whether your child’s symptoms are true allergies and how to best treat them. Keep in mind that:
- Skin irritation around the mouth is common after eating some acidic foods like tomatoes or oranges.
- Diarrhea is common in kids who drink juice.
- Lactose intolerance is rare in babies. But in older kids and grownups who are lactose intolerant, milk may cause diarrhea and gas. This is not the same as a milk allergy.
- Reactions to food additives like preservatives or dyes can cause symptoms in some children.
A few precautions to remember:
- Never give a baby under 1 honey (this is not an allergy issue but due to risk of botulism infection.)
- Talk with your child’s doctor about introducing new foods, especially peanut-foods, it they have serious eczema or a known food allergy or a first degree relative with a food allergy.
- Call the Appointment and Advice Call Center at 866-454-8855 f your child has mild symptoms, such as an itchy/runny nose or a few hives.
Call 911 or go to the nearest hospital, if your child has a severe reaction or any symptoms of a life-threatening allergy (anaphylaxis) within minutes to hours of ingesting food. Symptoms of anaphylaxis can include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of consciousness
- Pale or blue skin
- Repetitive cough, wheezing
- Hives, redness, or itching
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Swelling of lips or tongue
We’re learning so much about how to feed babies well! Research clearly shows that it’s a mistake to limit babies and young children’s food choices. It’s beneficial to give them a broad and varied diet – doing so can actually prevent food allergies.
If a child does develop a food allergy, the AAP has good news: most allergies are outgrown in early childhood!
“It is estimated that 80% to 90% of egg, milk, wheat, and soy allergies go away by age 5 years. Some allergies are more persistent. For example, 1 in 5 young children will outgrow a peanut allergy and fewer will outgrow allergies to nuts or seafood. Your pediatrician or allergist can perform tests to track your child’s food allergies and watch to see if they are going away.”
Enjoy those first few meals of solid foods and the funny faces your sweet baby will be making!
Resources for parents:
My Doctor Online:
Safely Introduce Peanut Foods to Your Baby (4 Months and Older)
The American Academy of Pediatrics:
Food Allergies in Children
AAP Clinical Report Highlights Early Introduction of Peanut-based Foods to Prevent Allergies
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