It was once thought that introducing common allergenic foods such as fish, eggs, peanuts, nuts, wheat, soy and dairy early, could increase the risk of a child developing food allergies.
However, research now shows that that the earlier babies are exposed to these foods, the less likely they are to develop food allergies.
Preventing Food Allergies
Food allergies are on the rise, and although it is unclear the exact cause of food allergies, scientists are discovering new ways to at least try and lower the risk of a child developing an allergy to foods.
In the past, it was thought that waiting until the child was older, delaying the introduction of allergenic foods, was the best way to prevent the development of a food allergy.
However, a vast amount of research has been conducted and brand new recommendations have just been released by the The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology, which now advise:
- Against delaying the introduction of allergenic foods (in other words, the earlier the better)
- Allergenic foods should be introduced before 12 months of age, in order to prevent allergies.
The World Health Organisations (WHO) recommends to wait until 6 months of age to introduce solids. The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology recommends between 4-6 months, when baby is developmentally ready.
When it comes time to introducing bub to the world of solids, there are no hard and fast rules as to what order or exactly what age to introduce certain foods to a baby. When introducing solids, babies really can go to town and eat what the rest of the family are eating (making sure the foods are an appropriate texture to avoid choking, of course).
Read my article on How to Introduce Solids for more info
And if you’re pregnant or breast feeding you don’t have to avoid eating the allergenic foods, as there is no evidence to suggest that doing so will prevent your child from developing an allergy. In other words, eating those foods won’t cause your child to develop an allergy.
HOW TO DO IT
Introduce only one of these allergenic foods (listed below) per day so that in the case of a reaction, you will know which food is the culprit
Feed baby these foods in the morning so that you can monitor any reactions throughout the day.
Monitor closely for the following symptoms of allergy. Stop feeding baby these foods immediately in the case of a reaction and contact your doctor or hospital if at all concerned.
- Red rash
- Swelling of the lips eyes or face,
- Watery/itchy eyes or nose
If there is a family history of allergy, it is important to speak with your doctor before introducing allergenic foods.
THE ALLERGENIC FOODS
Remember: You can start to feed your child any of the following foods at any time once they start solids, as long as the texture is appropriate for your child’s developmental stage.
You can feed your baby egg at any time once they start solids, depending on when they can handle the texture without choking. Eggs are highly nutritious, containing vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy fats. Start with well cooked egg yolk first, as this contains mostly healthy fats and not the common allergenic protein, which is in the white. Once you’ve determined egg yolk is not an issue, you can start to feed both the yolk and the white, making sure that it is well cooked through (not runny).
The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology have recently updated their guidelines, recommending that for infants with a family history of food allergy, egg be introduced before the age of 8 months, as this may in fact help to prevent the development of allergy.
Mix cooked eggs through meals or give to baby as finger foods (depending on stage of eating development).
- Egg whisked with a little milk and grated zucchini, baked in the oven.
- Finely chopped boiled egg mixed through meat and veggie dishes.
- Small pieces of scrambled egg.
Milk can be introduced to your cooking from 6 months of age, but not served as a drink. This is because children may start to prefer cow’s milk to formula or breast milk, which offer baby much more nutrition than cow’s milk before the age of 1. After the age of 1, children can have cow’s milk as a drink (or breast milk if breast feeding) but water should be the preferred option most of the day. Children over 1 do not require toddler formula, cow’s milk provides sufficient nutrients for growth and development.
You can use milk in cooking to poach fish, stir through purees, create a sauce for veggies, baked goods or custards.
Lucy-Belle loves: Yoghurt stirred through her porridge in the morning or as a mid-meal snack
Natural yoghurt is packed full of calcium and protein, essential for growing bodies. It is also a fabulous source of good bacteria for a healthy digestive system which can help build strong immunity. Babies born via caesarean section miss the opportunity to get their vital dose of good bacteria via the mother’s birth canal, so yoghurt can be very beneficial for these babies in boosting their immune system and gut health. It was on of Lucy-Belle’s first foods!
- Look for a natural yoghurt which will contain fewer hidden nasties and more of the good bacteria. Many of the yoghurts you see in the supermarket are more like desserts, so it’s important to read the ingredients lists.
- Avoid yoghurts with added sugar in the ingredients list
- Avoid yoghurts sweetened with honey (until the age of 12 months), to reduce the risk of botulism
- Try Barambah Organics or Jaalna, available from supermarkets
Can be melted through meals sparingly. Cheese is very high in sodium (salt) which can place a lot of stress on the kidneys of young babies. It is best to use a very small amount if using, and not as an everyday food until the child is over approximately 1 year of age
Gone are the days of having to wait a life-time to introduce peanut butter to your little one! The good news is that peanut butter (and other nut butters) can be introduced from 6 months of age. Make sure your little one is developmentally ready, as peanut butter is sticky and can cause gagging as it sticks to the room of the mouth(we waited to feed Lucy-Belle peanut butter at around 8 or 9 moths for this reason).
The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology have updated their guidelines this year, stating ‘There is evidence that for infants at high risk of food allergies, such as those with severe eczema or who already had a food allergy reaction to egg, introduction of regular peanut before 12 months of age can reduce subsequent peanut allergy.’
A natural (smooth) nut butter such as peanut, almond, cashew or macadamia, is a great source of healthy fats and protein for growing bodies. Look for a smooth nut butter using only nuts and avoid those using salt, sugar and vegetable oils in the ingredients list. Neither whole nuts, nor chunky nut butters should not be given to babies as they are a choking hazard.
Lucy-Belle loves: Smooth nut butter on a slice of good quality toast such as sourdough for breakfast, or dolloped on slices of banana for a snack.
A great source of protein and healthy fats, essential for brain development. Be very careful that all bones are removed.
Lucy-Belle loves: As a baby – Steamed fish (bones removed) pureed with cauliflower and zucchini. As a toddler – Steamed fish with vegetables
If you have any concerns introducing these foods, please consult your doctor. Severe reactions are rare, but if you suspect your child is having a reaction to food and is experiencing breathing difficulties, call the ambulance immediately.
Tara is a university-qualified nutritionist, renowned for her no-nonsense approach to nutrition and health. She helps families learn how to live a healthy life without the need for fad diets or expensive crazy ingredients.