Timing of Solids
Is it true that introducing solids before 6 months of age will increase the likelihood that my baby will develop an allergy?
Dr. Wesley Burks, Professor and Chief of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology at Duke University Medical Center, notes that breastfeeding exclusively for more than 4 months -- and waiting to introduce solids until 4 to 6 months of age -- are two of the best ways to help prevent the onset of allergies. In addition to immune system strength, your baby's gastrointestinal and motor strength will increase month by month. While a 4-month-old might be able to digest solid foods well, she might be more physically adept and attentive at 6 months, making the transition to new foods faster, easier, and less messy.
Breastfeeding for Protection
Do breastfed babies have a lesser chance of developing food allergies?
Studies suggest that breastfed babies are less likely to develop allergies because human milk has protective and strengthening effects on the immune system. Doctors and nutritionists encourage mothers to breastfeed exclusively as long as possible, preferably until your baby is 6 months. When you transition your baby to solids, he will still get the majority of his nutritional and caloric needs fulfilled by breast milk and will continue to benefit from its protective properties. Solid food should be a supplement to breast milk or formula. As your baby gradually eats more solids each meal, reduce the amount of breast milk or formula.
Family Ties to Allergies
My spouse and I have food allergies. How should we introduce solids to our baby?
Children of parents who have an allergies including food or environmental allergies, eczema, or asthma -- are more likely to develop allergies themselves. If you or your spouse have food allergies, talk to you doctor about a preventative approach to starting your baby on solid foods. Allergy experts often suggest a delayed schedule of introduction of the most allergenic foods. Your family history might warrant testing before or during the transition to solids to help with early detection of potential allergies.
Serving Size & Allergies
If my baby is allergic to something, is there a certain amount that will trigger the immune response?
It often takes multiple exposures to allergenic foods before a baby will present symptoms. If you have been breastfeeding, your baby might have ingested multiple allergens but won't react until she eats them in their more concentrated form as solid foods. If there is no family history, introduce your baby to solids one ingredient at a time, three to five days apart. Slow, steady exposure to new ingredients will help your baby adjust, and help you carefully observe any reactions she has.
Avoiding Other Allergens
If my child is intolerant of a particular food, should we avoid other foods to prevent further symptoms?
Children who are allergic to a particular food are more likely to develop allergies to other foods. If an allergy surfaces, avoid any of the other top allergens, including milk, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts. Talk to your doctor about testing and prevention. If you make your own baby food at home, be careful about cross-contamination. For example, if your baby has a milk allergy, avoid pureeing butternut squash for her in the same blender you made your smoothie in. Trace amounts of an allergen can sometimes spur a reaction.
Adult Food for Baby
Can I just puree whatever we're having for dinner and feed it to my baby?
Not to start with because you want to focus on introducing one food at a time as we've previously mentioned. This helps you monitor responses to foods and easily decipher causes of any reactions. If you start with pureed spaghetti and meatballs before exploring single-ingredient foods, it will be difficult to figure out what caused a reaction. Was it wheat in the pasta, milk in the Parmesan, beef, or tomatoes that disagreed with your baby? Once your baby has eaten several solids without any trouble, pureeing the family meal is an easy way to get dinner on everyone's plate.
Packaged Foods & Allergens
How do I know if packaged baby foods have an ingredient that my baby shouldn't be eating?
The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act requires food manufacturers to label allergens in plain language on packaging. In the past, milk products could be listed as casein, ammonium caseinate, or whey. Eggs could be listed as albumin. People unfamiliar with the scientific terms for foods didn't know their child was ingesting an allergen to which he was averse. Get to know food labels well and don't assume that the jarred pureed peas contain only peas: Butter or other ingredients could be added, too. Homemade baby food is a sure way to control what your baby is eating.
Intolerances & Allergies
My baby is lactose intolerant, but not allergic. What's the difference?
Lactose intolerance is common in infants and is often outgrown. Your baby lacks the enzyme that breaks down milk sugar, or lactose. The lactose builds up in your baby's intestines and ferments, causing painful gas, bloating, and other gastrointestinal issues. A milk allergy will cause your baby's immune system to attack milk proteins, releasing histamines into her bloodstream and causing an allergic reaction. When you introduce your baby to solid foods, delay dairy products until your baby can tolerate them (children under 12 months shouldn't be given cow's milk to drink), and check labels of prepared baby foods for milk ingredients.
Will my baby outgrow her food allergy or intolerance?
The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) reports that one in 17 children under age 3 have food allergies, but many will outgrow them. Peanut, tree nut, fish, and shellfish allergies tend to be lifelong, while children have a better chance of outgrowing allergies to milk, wheat, soy, and eggs. If your baby is lactose intolerant, exclude dairy from his diet until it can be tolerated. Gluten intolerance, or Celiac Disease, is also typically lifelong and managed by complete removal of gluten from the diet.
Honey & Botulism
Why should I avoid giving my baby honey? Is it an allergen?
While honey is not classified as an allergen, it should not be given to babies under 12 months old because it might contain Clostridium botulinum, naturally occurring bacteria. The bacteria cause botulism, a serious illness that can lead to long-term side effects or death. Underdeveloped digestive systems of babies younger than 1 year old are unable to attack botulism toxins, leaving them susceptible to illness.
Food Allergy Cures
Is there a cure for allergies?
There are currently no known cures for allergies, though scientists are continuously working toward understanding how to sensitize allergy sufferers and eliminate symptoms. Today the best management of food allergies is avoidance of the ingredients that spur them.
Food Allergy Resources
What resources are available for questions about or support for children with food allergies?
Your pediatrician will be a dependable counselor s. He might refer you to an allergist for advanced testing and guidance. Nutritionists can be excellent advocates for parents who are working around allergies or trying to avoid them. A naturopathic practitioner is another option for exploring treatments and lifestyle adjustments aimed at helping your family adapt to a food allergy. The Food Allergy and Anaphylactic Network (FAAN) is a nationwide community of families, medical professionals, and authorities on food allergies.
Copyright © 2010 Meredith Corporation.