Introducing Baby to Solid Foods with Allergy Awareness

Transitioning your baby from breast milk or formula to solid foods is another exciting phase of her growth. As you experiment with meals, you might worry about undiscovered food allergies. These questions and answers will help you and your baby relax and enjoy this yummy, messy journey!

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    When to Start Solids

    If I wait longer to introduce my baby to solid foods, will she be less likely to develop a food allergy?

    The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends introducing babies to solid foods between 4 and 6 months of age, a time when babies start to show signs that they are ready for solid foods such as baby cereal and basic purees. Children who are at high risk of developing allergies, specifically those whose parents or siblings have allergies might benefit from being introduced to solids, especially foods that tend to cause allergies such as nuts, milk and wheat, later.

  • Shannon Greer

    Top Allergenic Foods

    Are some foods more likely to spur an allergic reaction than others?

    Eight foods are responsible for 90 percent of food allergies: milk, wheat, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, seafood, and fish. Berries, seeds, corn, and other foods can also be problematic. Some allergies fade as children mature. Wheat, milk, and egg allergies are the most commonly abandoned by growing kids, while shellfish, fish, and peanut allergies tend to be lifelong. While there is no cure for food allergies, scientists continue to study ways to lessen symptoms which helps children and adults tolerate problematic foods.

  • When to Worry: Food Allergies
    When to Worry: Food Allergies
  • Intolerance or Allergy

    Is a food allergy different from intolerance?

    A food allergy is a defensive reaction by the immune system a specific protein in food which can lead to respiratory or gastrointestinal problems. Being tested by a doctor or allergiest is the best way to distinguishing the symptoms and uncover the specific cause.

    On the other hand, intolerance to a specific food is a metabolic response, which is not related to the the immune system, most often to an enzyme in a food that the body cannot process. Lactose and gluten intolerances are two examples.

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    Breastfeeding for Immunity

    Does breastfeeding prevent food allergies?

    Dr. Wesley Burks, Professor and Chief of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology at Duke University Medical Center, notes that breastfeeding exclusively for more than four months -- and waiting to introduce solids until ages 4 to 6 months -- are two of the best ways to help prevent the onset of allergies in infants. As your baby starts to eat solid food, she'll still benefit from the nutrients and calories of breast milk for quite a while. Hold off on offering your baby cow's milk until 12 months, regardless of when you stop breastfeeding. If you stop prior to your baby's first birthday you'll need to give her formula.

  • Alexandra Rowley

    Order of New Solid Foods

    Does the order in which I introduce solids affect the likelihood of an allergy surfacing?

    Generally, offering least-allergenic foods, such as rice cereal and root vegetables, is a good place to start. When you introduce grains, save wheat for last, as it's the most allergenic grain. Though egg yolks are okay to try, egg whites are home to the culprit allergenic protein, albumin, and should be reserved until your baby's first birthday and he has been exposed to more solids.

  • Bryan McCay

    Liquids with Solids

    Should I stop breastfeeding or formula-feeding when I introduce my baby to solids?

    Nutritionists assert that breast milk and formula have all the nutrients and caloric requirements a baby needs for his first 12 months. They are much more nutritionally and calorically dense than any amount of solid food your baby will initially be able to ingest. They will help you pace the introduction of solids, which can decrease the likelihood of allergies. Offer solids as a supplement to breast milk or formula at around 6 months of age. As your baby adapts, you will slowly decrease the amount of breast milk or formula in his meals and increase solid foods.

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    Allergens & Breastfeeding

    I did not eliminate any foods from my own diet while breastfeeding, and my baby has not shown any allergy symptoms. Doesn't that mean he isn't allergic to any solid foods?

    Not necessarily. Some food allergies do not surface until the child ingests the whole food directly. You might have eaten peanut butter sandwiches throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding, only to discover your baby has a peanut allergy when he starts eating them. Despite the uncertainty, it's unnecessary for moms to eliminate allergenic foods from their own diets in anticipation of an allergy, unless determined necessary by a doctor. If your baby shows symptoms of a food allergy when you introduce solids, eliminate that food from your own diet until you have confirmed the source of the symptoms.

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    Family Allergy History

    Does family history impact the likelihood of our baby having a food allergy?

    Children of parents with allergies are 70 percent more likely to have a food allergy. Parents with asthma, eczema, or other allergic diseases are also more likely to have children with allergies. That said, many children with food allergies have no genetic disposition to them. If you, your spouse, or your baby's sibling has an allergy, talk to your doctor about the best way to introduce solids in order to prevent or anticipate the onset of food allergies.

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    Exposing Allergens Safely

    Should I introduce high-allergen foods to my child while at the doctor's office, in case she has a bad reaction?

    You wouldn't be the first to do it that way! Introducing foods to babies is anxiety-inducing indeed, and many parents have approached exposing children to high-risk foods this way. If your family history points to the likelihood of an allergy, your doctor might suggest a Food Challenge, an allergy test during which a child is given a high-risk food to eat in a doctor's office in order to monitor any reaction. Otherwise, slow introduction and awareness should be sufficient to safely expose your child to new foods at home.

  • Linda Farwell

    Spit-Up & Allergies

    My baby is spitting up more after eating solids. Does this mean she is allergic to something she's eating?

    Babies usually spit up because their esophagus muscles aren't strong enough yet to close completely after swallowing. This improves as their digestive systems develop. Spit-up is quite common and unlikely to be a symptom of an allergy. If your baby is upset, obviously uncomfortable, or exhibiting other signs of distress, make careful notes about what foods might have triggered her reaction and talk to your doctor about the possibility of intolerance or an allergy.

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    Allergy Symptoms

    What are the symptoms of an allergic reaction to food?

    Allergy symptoms can range from mild to severe, including life-threatening anaphylaxis. Milder symptoms include eczema, or gastrointestinal discomfort.

    The most sever reaction would be an Anaphylactic reactions which triggers a realease of histamine and other chemicals which could lead to life to very scary and life-threatening symptoms. Some sings include hives, swelling of mouth or lips, shortness of breath, wheezing, or intense vomiting or diarrhea.It can also include impaired breathing, weak pulse, and unconsciousness. This requires immediate medical attention.

    The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) is an excellent source for information on identifying and coping with allergies.

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    Honey Danger

    Does honey cause allergic reactions in babies?

    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. The underdeveloped digestive systems of babies younger than 1 year are unable to attack botulism toxins leaving them susceptible to illness.

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    Reaction Action Plans

    What should I do if I think my baby might be having a reaction to the food she ate?

    If your baby is exhibiting severe symptoms such as respiratory distress, intense diarrhea or vomiting, or hives, get medical help immediately. An over-the-counter children's antihistamine might help calm milder symptoms until you can talk with your baby's physician. Just be sure to follow proper dosing recommendation for the antihistamine and never give it to a baby under 3 months old without consulting your pediatrician first. It often takes several hours for an allergic reaction to food to surface, so keep notes about everything your baby is eating (and what you are ingesting if you are breastfeeding). You and your doctor or allergist can evaluate the food history and any known genetic ties to come to a conclusion about possible triggers.

  • Francis Janisch

    Homemade Baby Food

    Should I make my own baby food?

    Preparing homemade baby food is the best way to control what goes into your baby when introducing her to solid foods. Recipes for baby food are simple, as they usually consist of only one or two ingredients, and you can make a large batch and freeze small portions to last several feedings. You can mix and match flavors and textures as your baby adapts to solids and indicates favorites. Homemade baby food is a much cheaper alternative to buying jars of prepared food. If you do opt to buy it instead, start with "Stage 1" foods (basic purees).

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