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Introducing Potential Food Allergens to Your Baby

By Eileen Thomas, RDN, CSP, LD

Introducing Potential Food Allergens to Your Baby
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Food allergies are a common concern for new parents, and there is a lot of confusion on how to introduce new foods to children. Eileen Thomas, RDN, CSP, LD, Board Certified Specialist in Pediatric Nutrition answers some of the most common questions on food allergies in this article.

Eileen Lemond Headshot

 

What is a food allergy?

A food allergy is serious and sometimes life-threatening immune response to a certain food.  The reaction happens within minutes to hours of consuming the food. Tasting or simply touching the food can set off a reaction for someone who is allergic. There is no cure and the only way to prevent a reaction is strict avoidance of the food.

 

When introducing new foods to my little one, what should I watch for?

The following symptoms may be signs of an allergic reaction:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin rashes such as hives or eczema
  • Breathing problems such as wheezing
  • Blood in the stool

 

What are the most common food allergies?

Below are the top 8 allergens which account for 90% of all food allergies:

  • Cow’s milk
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Fish

 

When is it OK to introduce these foods to my baby?

You may begin introducing pureed solid foods between 4-6 months of age. There is no benefit to delaying introduction of potentially allergenic foods to infants once they are developmentally ready for solids. In fact, research has found that introducing allergenic foods, such as peanuts, around 6 months of age may lower the risk of developing certain food allergies. Here are some tips:

  • Make sure to introduce new foods one at a time.
  • Wait 3-4 days between introducing new foods to check for any signs of allergic reactions.
  • Speak with your baby’s pediatrician about any family history of food allergies, when to introduce solid foods and which ones to start with.

 

What are some infant-friendly examples of how I can introduce allergenic foods?

  • Peanuts: a teaspoon of peanut butter mixed into 4 oz. of prepared infant cereal or puree
  • Fish: puree soft cooked fish such as salmon or tuna in blender and offer by spoon
  • Dairy: plain whole milk yogurt is also a great food to introduce around 6 months.

 

What’s the difference between an allergy and intolerance?

A food intolerance is different from a food allergy in that it does not involve an immune response.  Intolerances involve the digestion of a certain food and symptoms are related to the amount consumed.  For example, lactose intolerance is caused by one’s inability to break down lactose, a sugar found in cow’s milk. Those with lactose intolerance are usually able to tolerate small amounts of dairy without any symptoms.

 

What are the signs of a food intolerance?

  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Constipation

 

My toddler has several food allergies. How do I know that the foods I am offering are safe?

Check the label. By law, food labels must list all major food allergens used in production. As a certified pediatric nutritionist, I recommend Beech-Nut® to families of little ones with multiple food allergies. Their products are free from peanuts, tree nuts, soy, eggs, fish and shellfish. The few foods that contain wheat or dairy are clearly listed on the label or can be found using the foods filter.

 

Will my child outgrow his or her allergy?

It is individualized child by child. However, children are less likely to outgrow peanut allergies compared to cow’s milk, eggs or wheat. It is best to consult with your pediatrician or immunologist.

 

I heard the guidelines for when to introduce peanuts have changed – what is now recommended?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently modified their recommendations for when to introduce peanuts and now recommend introducing infant-safe forms of peanut early in life. The best time to introduce peanuts depends on risk factors, which can be found below. If you have any questions on when to introduce peanuts to your little one, discuss with your pediatrician.

American Academy of Pediatrics Early Peanut Guidelines

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics

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