Introducing your baby to solid foods is an exciting milestone. However, understandably most parents are scared about introducing allergens to their babies during weaning. This blog will help you understand the need to introduce food allergens and how to do this safely. Here’s what you need to know about introducing food allergens to your baby:
When to Introduce Allergens
The current advice from the NHS is to introduce common allergens such as peanuts, eggs, dairy, gluten and fish from around 6 months of age. There is now good evidence including a review and studies such as LEAP and EAT that introducing food allergens specifically egg and peanut can help reduce the risk of an allergy to these foods.
For babies at high risk of food allergy they may benefit from introducing food allergens before 6 months (not before 17 weeks) with support from a health care professional. High risk babies can include those with an existing food allergy and/or moderate to severe eczema.
How to Introduce Allergens
Offer Allergens early in the day. It’s a good idea to offer allergenic foods during the day, when you and your baby are alert and awake. This will help you to monitor your baby for any signs of an allergic reaction, such as hives or difficulty breathing.
Ensure your baby is also well and any eczema is well controlled as this can make it harder identify the source of any possible symptoms. We don’t recommend rubbing food on a child’s skin as a ‘test’ for a food allergy.
When introducing allergens, it’s important to introduce them one at a time and in small amounts. For example, ¼ or ½ a teaspoon and build up to a full portion of that food over a week. This will help you to identify any potential allergies and to isolate the specific allergen responsible.
Offer the allergen in a form that is appropriate for your baby’s age and stage of development, for example, pureed or mashed.
The following are examples of allergenic foods that you may want to introduce to your baby:
- Peanuts and tree nuts: Try mixing peanut butter with breast milk or formula, or offering smooth nut butters or ground nuts.
- Eggs: Offer well-cooked eggs, such as scrambled or boiled.
- Dairy: Try offering small amounts of yogurt or cheese, or mixing cow’s milk with breast milk or formula.
- Gluten: Offer small amounts of wheat-based foods, such as bread or pasta.
- Fish: Try offering well-cooked fish, such as salmon or cod.
Remember once you have successfully trialled the food allergen, keep it in your baby’s diet on a regular basis.
Why should we include allergens in Babies diets?
Allergenic foods are also a great source of key nutrients and help build an all important dietary diversity by offering a wide variety in their diet.
Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction
The symptoms of an allergic reaction can range from mild to severe and can include hives, swelling, vomiting, diarrhoea and difficulty breathing. It’s important to be aware of these symptoms and to seek medical attention immediately if you suspect that your baby is having an allergic reaction such as breathing difficulties.
There are immediate and delayed symptoms of food allergy, immediate symptoms occur typically very quickly (usually within minutes) up to two hours. Delayed symptoms are anywhere from two to seventy two hours after consumption. Allergy symptoms are typically replicable in that they will occur each time an allergen is given.
Introducing food allergens to your baby can be a daunting experience, but with the suggested approach above, it can be a safe and positive experience for you and your baby. Remember to introduce allergens one at a time and in small amounts, be aware of the symptoms of an allergic reaction and seek medical attention immediately if required. By taking these steps, you can help to reduce the risk of allergies developing and give your baby the best possible start in life.
Need more support?
Check out our:
- Recorded or Live Weaning Masterclass. Dr. Kirsty presents an interactive, informative and practical session to help you to support your baby through the weaning process. You will leave the session with a range of actions you can instantly begin to implement to help you master feeding your baby.
- Online Winning at Weaning course. This online course aims to equip you with the skills and confidence to guide your baby through the weaning journey from the very first tastes to help them accept a wide range of foods and form a healthy and happy relationship with food. After you complete this course you will have so much more knowledge, confidence and peace of mind.
- Dr Kirsty can also provide one-to-one consultations to help your baby master the weaning journey and address any specific challenges you may be experiencing feeding your baby or how to navigate a food allergy.
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Written by Dr Kirsty Porter