Starting to feed a baby solid foods is an exciting milestone for parents. However, it comes with a lot of questions and concerns, especially about food allergies. What foods are most likely to cause allergies in babies? How do you avoid them?
Start Gradually to Identify Any Food Allergies
It’s most important to introduce a baby to new foods gradually, one at a time, in case of food allergies. If not, a parent may have trouble tying an allergy to a specific new food. For example, if you give your baby three new foods over the course of a day and she develops an allergic reaction, you won’t know which of the foods provoked it.
The type of food or the order in which food is introduced is not much of a concern, as long as the foods you are offering are healthy and well-balanced for the baby. Each time you offer a new food, you should wait three to five days before adding another new item to the menu. Don’t eliminate the other foods your baby is eating during that time; you already know these are safe because the child has not had any food reactions up until now. Just don’t add anything else new.
Babies and Allergies: The Top 8 Allergenic Foods
With any new food, you’ll want to be on the lookout for any allergic reactions. There are more than 160 allergenic foods; certain foods may be more allergenic than others. The following eight foods and food groups are known to possibly cause problems 90% of the time. You may want to wait until the baby is older to try some of these foods, especially peanuts. In fact, many experts suggest waiting until your child is 3 before trying peanuts. Ask your pediatrician questions about a food if you are unsure about it.
- Tree nuts (such as walnuts or almonds)
Food Allergy Symptoms to Watch for in Your Baby
Food allergy symptoms usually appear very soon after the food is eaten — within a few minutes to a couple of hours. If you’re introducing a new food to your baby, keep an eye out for these symptoms:
- Hives or welts
- Flushed skin or rash
- Face, tongue, or lip swelling
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Coughing or wheezing
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of consciousness
Protecting Baby Against Food Allergies: Easy Does It
Many pediatricians still recommend waiting until your baby is a bit older — 9 or 10 months — before offering the 8 allergenic foods. Even if there’s no added risk of causing an allergy, they note that an allergic reaction may be easier to manage in an older baby. Some pediatricians, concerned about the particular severity of allergic reactions to peanuts and shellfish, still suggest staying away from them until your child is at least 3 years old.
Whole cow’s milk should not be given to babies younger than 1 year of age, because the proteins in whole milk can irritate the stomach. However, yogurt and soft cheeses are fine, because the proteins in these dairy products are broken down and less likely to cause tummy trouble. You should also wait until at least age 1 (some experts say age 2) to introduce honey, which can cause a potentially serious disease called infant botulism.