Whether your children are small, grown or are yet to come, there’s no doubt you’ve received or copious advise on what you need to feed your children. Doctors , friends, and family are loaded with tips and words of wisdom for what and when to start feeding your kids. Although this advice is often times valuable it can get difficult to sift through the recommendations to find what works best for you and your child.

baby eating introducing foods to young children allergiesThis is a topic I could write several articles on but wanted to discuss some recent research and publications regarding the introduction of potential allergens to infants. There is no one size fits all, and every single child develops differently and has different needs. I always encourage my mothers to equip themselves with reliable information and then make their own decision to do the best for their children.

From 1997 to 2007 the prevalence of food allergies in children increased by 18%. Although research has not found a definite cause for this increase, it’s likely that nutrition plays a role. For decades it’s been widely known, and practiced, to avoid feeding peanuts to babies until they are three or to give them cow’s milk until they are one to prevent food allergies. Is it possible thatdelaying the introduction of these foods has actually increased our risk of developing them? In 2012 the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAI) released new guidelines discussing the merits of offering these “dangerous” foods earlier in life. Listed below is some new insight and research on introducing them into your infant’s diet.

  • Cow’s Milk can be safely introduced before 1 year of age when added to complementary foods in small amounts such as cheese, baked goods, and yogurts. It is not recommended to give your infant milk to drink before 1 year of age to avoid displacing vital formula or breast milk.
  • Eggs can be safely introduced after 4 months. In fact, in recent study infants who received eggs before 10 months of age actually decreased their risk of developing an allergy to them.
  • Peanuts (and other nuts) can be introduced after 6 months of age for low risk infants. However,they shouldbe avoided until the child developmentally ready to eat them. Sticky peanut butter and peanuts pieces do pose as a choking hazard for young children. Try a thin layer of nut butter over toast or whole grain crackers when your child has developed their skills in chewing and swallowing. A recent study showed that Israeli infants who consume peanut products as infants had a 10 fold lower chance of having a peanut allergy than their United Kingdom counter parts who consumed no peanuts as infants.
  • Fish can be safely introduced with other meats after 6 months. Fish can be a great source of quality protein for young children and infants.

But first, please wait until your child is 4-6 months old before introducing any complementary foods. Why? You’re baby’s digestive system develops immunity with defense mechanisms to protect against potential proteins in foods that cause allergies. If the digestive system isn’t developed enough, premature exposure to potential allergens and solids can increase their chance of developing allergies. Introduce foods one at a time and gradually increase variety, waiting 3-5 days between each introduction. Watch for allergic or adverse responses to a new food such as hives, swelling, vomiting or difficulty breathing. After a several complementary foods have been tolerated (rice cereal, sweet potatoes, avocado, banana, green beans, etc), the potential allergens can be safe to introduce after 6 months of age.

A great way to scientifically protect your child against allergies is to breastfeed. Avoiding eggs, nuts and milk while you’re pregnant or nursing has not been shown to increase the odds your child will develop an allergy to them. If your child is high risk or if other siblings or family members have a food allergies please consult your physician for the best timing for introducing these foods. Always introduce new foods to your children at home, not in a day care or restaurant, so you have exact knowledge of the food’s ingredients and can closely monitor your child for reactions.

I think it’s time we start calming some of our fears when feeding our children. Feeding and meal times is a special bonding time between parent and child and the anxiety of introducing solids can negatively affect that nurturing relationship. Talk to your doctor before your child is 4 months old about their risk for food allergies and potentially adding these foods after 6 months of age.

For more information visit the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology’s website.