Ready to Master Weaning? Discover Allergy Introduction Tips Now!

As a children’s dietitian, my passion lies in helping parents navigate the world of weaning with confidence and ease. With years of experience and a deep understanding of the nutritional needs of infants and toddlers, I’m committed to empowering parents with the knowledge and resources they need to wean their little ones well. Your little one’s weaning journey does not have to be stressful. Learn how to embrace the mess, and create an enjoyable experience for both of you with my  Weaning Masterclass, and Online Course.  

For parents embarking on the weaning journey with their little ones, introducing your little one to solid foods marks a significant milestone, but it also brings about potential challenge such as allergies. Among these, the top 3 allergens in babies include cow’s milk, peanuts, wheat and eggs – with up to 8% of children developing an allergy (BSACI, 2018). While some babies may outgrow their allergies as they grow older, particularly those to milk and egg, others may carry these allergies into adulthood, such as nut.

Throughout this blog, we will help you understand allergies more with practical tips on how to introduce these food allergens to your baby during weaning. As children’s dietitians we understand that the prospect of introducing potential allergens can be daunting, but we want to assure you that we’re here to provide expert tips and increase your confidence in introducing allergens to your little one. Check out our weaning page for more information on how we can support weaning you we ones well.

Understanding Allergies

What causes an allergic response?

Allergies are the result of the body’s immune system reacting to proteins that are normally harmless. When someone with an allergy comes into contact with an allergen, their immune system perceives it as a threat and produces a response. Allergies during infancy can vary in severity, ranging from mild reactions to more severe cases requiring immediate medical attention.

What are the main food allergens?

In the UK there are 14 major allergens, these include:

  1. Peanuts
  2. Tree nuts (such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts)
  3. Eggs
  4. Milk
  5. Soybeans
  6. Wheat
  7. Fish
  8. Crustaceans (such as crab, lobster, shrimp)
  9. Molluscs (such as squid, octopus, mussels)
  10. Sesame seeds
  11. Mustard
  12. Celery
  13. Lupin (a type of legume)
  14. Sulphur dioxide and sulphites (at concentrations of more than 10 mg/kg or 10 mg/L)

What are the main types of allergies?

Allergens can be classified into two main categories: IgE-mediated allergens and non-IgE-mediated allergens.

Common IgE-mediated food allergens include nuts, eggs, milk, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. These allergens trigger an immune response involving antibodies, which can result in rapid and potentially severe allergic reactions – usually occurring within 30 minutes of consuming the food.

This includes:

  • Swollen lips, face, or eyes
  • Itchy skin rash such as “hives” or urticaria
  • Abdominal pain and vomiting
  • Swollen tongue, persistent cough, or a hoarse cry
  • Difficulty breathing or noisy breathing
  • Pale or floppy appearance, unresponsiveness, or unconsciousness

On the other hand, non-IgE-mediated allergens may cause delayed allergic reactions and often involve other components of the immune system. Examples of non-IgE-mediated allergens include certain foods like cow’s milk protein and gluten. Non-IgE allergies, which don’t trigger immediate immune responses and reactions can occur from 2hrs to 3 days after a trigger food. Often children can present with more than one symptom at a time, which can vary from:

  • Worsening vomiting
  • Food refusal
  • Change in stools (loose/frequent stools (more than 6-8 times per day or constipation/infrequent stools (2 or less per week)
  • or loose stools)
  • Skin reddening or itch over body
  • Worsening eczema* (food allergies do not cause eczema but can make it worse).

What should I do if my baby experiences these symptoms?

If you suspect that your baby is displaying these symptoms on every exposure to the food allergen then pause on introducing more of that food allergen. Take photos and videos of the symptoms to show your health care professional and inform them of what has happened. In most cases this will be your GP or Health Visitor to discuss the next steps and see if you need a referral to the allergy team or children’s dietitian.

What if my baby is at a higher risk of developing a higher risk?

Certain babies may have an increased risk to allergies if they have:

  • Eczema (more heightened with the severity of this)
  • Already has a food allergy
  • If there is a family history of allergies

If you think your baby could be at an elevated risk, it is advised:

  • You introduce allergens earlier around the age of 4 months
  • Introduce cooked eggs followed by peanuts

Introducing allergens when weaning

 

It has been show that introducing egg and peanuts will prevent 3% and 2% (respectively) of infants from getting IgE-mediated allergy (BSACI, 2018). As children’s dietitians, we advise parents to introduce allergenic foods early and regularly when their baby is ready for solid foods, typically around six months old. This proactive approach aims to lower the risk of food allergies, as delaying the introduction beyond 12 months may increase the likelihood of a child developing an allergy to that particular food.

Below are some tips that you mind helpful for introducing allergens into your baby’s diet.

1. Make sure you’re baby isn’t unwell

Before trialling new foods for potential allergic responses, ensure your baby is in good health and free from ailments like colds, coughs, or stomach upsets. Illness can strain their immune system and complicate symptom identification, potentially masking allergic reactions.

2. Start slow

It’s best to introduce new foods to your baby one by one over the space of a week. By doing so, you can carefully monitor for any potential symptoms. If your baby shows no signs of adverse reactions, you can then introduce the next new food.

3. Small portions


Start with 1⁄4-1⁄2 teaspoon and then increase slowly over the next few days, aiming for a full portion of that food by the end of the week.

4. Introduce new foods in the mornings


It’s beneficial to introduce a new food during the morning hours when parents or caregivers can dedicate their full attention to observing their baby’s reactions. Aiming for a day when your baby isn’t scheduled to attend childcare or nursery allows for uninterrupted monitoring and immediate response to any potential adverse reactions. This approach also helps to prevent sleep being affected.

5. Be persistent


If your baby doesn’t seem interested try again on another day, don’t force them to try anything – it is important to go at the pace that suits your child. Try varying the texture or appearance of a food – i.e. finger food or mashed or cooking egg in different ways.

6. Choose the right texture for your baby


Children under the age of five should avoid consuming whole nuts or large chunks of peanut butter due to the potential choking hazards. Try blitzing nuts or adding smooth nut butters to foods instead. You can offer these foods as finger foods, initially this may be the shape and size of your small finger or present as a mashed consistency.

7. Be aware of certain foods which can mimic allergy symptoms.

Contact irritation/ reaction which can cause a red blotchy rash is 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐟𝐨𝐨𝐝 𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐫𝐠𝐲 and can occur in babies with culprits including:

  • tomato & tomato based sauces/ketchup
  • citrus & acidic fruits e.g. oranges, pineapple, strawberries, cherries or foods preserved, containing or seasoned with citrus e.g. lemon or smoothies or juice
  • histamine rich foods e.g. aubergine, spinach, avocado
  • Additives like salt & vinegars on or in food

Babies and children have delicate skin & some (like those with eczema) very sensitive skin, which can be even more easily irritated. They also eat in a way where food is often exposed to the face! Fruit and vegetables are the lowest allergenicity foods so it is less common to have allergies to these.

8. Keep the introduced allergens in your baby’s diet


After introducing potential allergens like eggs and peanuts, it’s advised to maintain their inclusion in your baby’s diet. Ideally, aim for at least twice a week to help sustain your baby’s tolerance to these foods.

Meal ideas for introducing allergens

 

Here are some suggestions to help you get started with introducing allergens into your meals. Experimenting with small amounts of allergenic foods in well-prepared dishes can aid in identifying and managing potential allergies early on.

Egg

  • Hard-boiled egg yolk mashed into pureed vegetables
  • Hard-boiled egg yolk mashed into baby cereal, like ready break/porridge/weetabix

Peanuts and tree nuts

  • Dilute smooth nut paste with water and stir into pureed vegetables
  • Mix a small amount of nut flour or smooth nut butter paste with baby cereal/yoghurt/fruit puree

Cow’s Milk

  • Plain yoghurt (full fat, unsweetened plain) can be added to pureed vegetables or fruits
  • Mix a small amount of custard (unsweetened plain) with baby cereal or fruit puree.
  • Add small amounts of grated cheese to puree/vegetables
  • Add small amounts of butter to vegetables/bread/crakers/purees/porridge

Wheat

  • Wheat-based baby cereals, Weetabix
  • Small amounts of bread/pasta/crackers
  • Try semolina porridge mixed with breast milk or infant formula

Soy

  • Tofu can be mashed smoothly and mixed into fruit purees or added to stew
  • Soy yoghurts
  • Low salt soy sauce can be added to purees/stews/sauces

Fish

  • Tinned salmon or tuna can be mashed and mixed into pureed vegetables such as mashed potatoes
  • Try steamed, boneless white fish finely shredded and stirred into vegetables such as mashed potatoes

Sesame

  • Tahini can be added to fruit or vegetable purees
  • Sprinkle sesame seeds over meals, i.e. on vegetables/purees/meat etc
  • Use a small amount of sesame oil to cook meals

So, while the prospect of introducing potential allergens may seem daunting, it’s important to remember that your baby’s allergenic response can be decreased by following the right steps. By starting with one allergen at a time and carefully monitoring your baby’s reactions, you can build confidence in navigating this important stage of their development.

We hope that this blog has provided you with practical insights and tips to help you on your journey. Remember, every baby is unique, so it’s essential to tailor your approach to meet their specific needs. With patience, persistence, and a proactive mindset, you can empower yourself to confidently introduce allergens and set the foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating habits.

Ready to dive deeper into the weaning adventure?

Starting the solids journey should be fun and allow your baby to love food and become a happy and healthy eater for life. Our weaning 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. Explore our Weaning Masterclass, where you’ll gain valuable insights, tips, to make weaning a joyous exploration for both you and your little one.

Written by Callista Mersini Student Dietitian & Kirsty Porter Children’s Dietitian

References

  • Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. (2023). Eczema and Food Allergy. Fast Facts.
  •  UK Food Standards Agency. (2020). Food allergy and intolerance: Consumer attitudes and behaviours in the UK.
  • NHS. (2022). Allergies.
  • Allergy UK. (2022). Weaning – Introducing Your Baby to Solids.
  • Allergy UK. (2024). Cow’s Milk Allergy – Types of cow’s milk allergy.
  • British Society for Allergy & Clinical Immunology. (2018). Preventing food allergy in your baby – Information for parents.
  • Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition – Committee on Toxicity. (2018). Statement on the introduction of peanut and hen’s egg into the infant diet.
  • National Allergy Council. (2023). Food ideas and recipes.
  • Healthier Together. (2024). Egg allergy – reintroduction of egg in children with mild egg allergy
  • British Society for Allergy & Clinical Immunology. (2018). Preventing food allergy in higher risk infants – Guidance for Healthcare Professionals.

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