When and How Should You Introduce Common Allergens to a Baby or Toddler’s Diet

When and How Should You Introduce Common Allergens to a Baby or Toddler’s Diet

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Food allergies can be deadly in some people. Therefore, it is important to take caution when introducing foods that are common allergens to your baby or toddler. You may not yet know if these foods are going to be a problem for your child, and you don’t want the first time they eat these foods to produce a potentially deadly allergic reaction. Yet you don’t know how your children will react (or if they have an allergy) until you introduce the foods.

For many years, doctors recommended delayed introduction of allergenic foods, including eggs, milk and nuts. It was believed that early introduction of these foods would increase the risk of children developing an allergy to them. However, that way of thinking has changed as research has proven different results.

Now the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology say that there is no benefit to waiting to introduce commonly allergenic foods, and in fact, waiting to introduce these foods may even be harmful and may increase the risk of allergies. The AAAAI says that after solid foods are introduced at 4 to 6 months, any foods may be given. Solid foods should not be introduced before then.

Breastfeeding exclusively for at least four months is said to offer some protection against allergies, particularly to cow’s milk.

Though guidelines have changed to allow earlier introduction of commonly allergenic foods, that doesn’t mean that the risk of allergic reaction is not there. It is still important to introduce foods carefully and with deliberation.

The old rule still stands: When introducing new foods, introduce them one at a time over a period of five days or so to watch for any signs of a reaction. That means that if you are introducing wheat, your baby or toddler should only have wheat or other foods that he has already experienced without incident and nothing else. This way, if there is an allergic reaction, you can pinpoint the food responsible right away.

If you have a family history of allergies, it is important to be especially vigilant when introducing those foods. Talk with your pediatrician about any precautions you may need to take, such as limiting quantities or introducing foods only under the guidance of a doctor.

Even with the new recommendations that you need not wait to introduce allergenic foods to your baby and toddler, the old guidelines to wait to introduce eggs until one year still apply. You may introduce egg yolks, but not the whites. Talk with your pediatrician if you are unsure about this guideline.

Food allergies can be scary, especially when they happen in babies and children. However, you need not be afraid of introducing foods that are common allergens to your baby or toddler. You can introduce them one at a time as soon as your baby starts eating solids – and you may even reduce the risk of allergies by doing so.

When did you start introducing allergenic foods to your children? Share your experiences in the comments!

About the Author:
Bridget Sandorford is a freelance food and culinary writer, where recently she’s been researching culinary arts schools in Boston. In her spare time, she enjoys biking, painting and working on her first cookbook.

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