baby in highchair covered in spaghetti

What to know about introducing solid baby foods, including tips for managing food allergies

By Angela Nolan, RD, LDN, CBS and Happy Mama Mentor

Starting solids is usually a very fun and exciting time for most parents. It can also be a little scary and overwhelming. What if my baby has a reaction to a particular food? How will I know?  What’s next? There are a lot of questions when it comes time for solid food introduction. And, navigating known allergens and potential allergens can make it all the more challenging.

Not too long ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) endorsed new dietary guidelines regarding the introduction of common allergens into your baby’s diet. The new recommendation is to introduce them freely around 6 months of age, in addition to other “first foods.” This is appropriate for infants who are generally considered low risk, without any increased concerns regarding a possible allergy. The reasoning behind these new guidelines is that earlier exposure to allergens may actually reduce the risk of developing an allergy to those particular foods. Cow’s milk, egg, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish and wheat are the usual culprits when it comes to food allergies in infants and children.

For those infants that are high, or higher, risk (family history or sibling with an allergy) the suggestion is to introduce them AFTER several other foods have been introduced, but around the same age. Allergy testing may also be suggested prior to introduction for these higher risk babies.

Upon starting solids, you may already be aware of certain foods to which your baby may be allergic or intolerant. If this is the case, you will want to sit down with your pediatrician to discuss your child’s particular situation and come up with a plan for when and at what point they will be introduced. Some doctors may have varying suggestions or methods of introduction depending upon the degree of your baby’s allergy, or family history, so it’s best to have a personalized plan. With a little know-how, starting solids, even with potential food allergies, doesn’t have to be a stressful experience…for you or your baby! Here are some tips:

Introduce single ingredient foods first

The AAP suggests introducing one, single ingredient food in its pure form at a time. Individual pureed vegetables or fruits, like carrots, peas, peaches or apples would be examples of a single ingredient food. So, as much as you want your baby to taste your delicious casserole, hold off. Introducing one pure food at a time allows you to interpret your baby’s tolerance and observe for any adverse reactions, while being able to pinpoint the offender. Allergens also fall into this category. There’s no reason to delay the introduction of those common allergens as long as there are no known allergies up until this point. If there are, again, have a chat with your pediatrician. Just be sure to offer the foods in an appropriate texture with which your baby is comfortable.

Go slowly

In addition to offering one single ingredient food at a time, it’s also suggested to wait 2-3 days before offering a new food to your baby. This goes back to giving yourself time to ensure baby’s tolerance.

Timing is key

Pick a time when you’ll be at home where you’ll be able to be more in tune with your baby. Don’t introduce a new food to your baby on a whim when you are out. You’re less likely to overlook something if you are in your usual environment.

Stay calm

Babies can pick up on our apprehension and anxiety surrounding the introduction of solids. Keep the feeding environment calm for a more positive experience on both accounts.

Know an adverse reaction when you see one

Things like sudden rashes, swelling, vomiting, or breathing difficulties can be indicators of an allergy or reaction. Most allergic reactions occur within minutes of eating the offending food but, sometimes, it can take up to two hours for symptoms to manifest. Get in touch with your healthcare provider as soon as possible, should you suspect any adverse reactions.

Overall, the latest allergen-introduction guidelines give us even more freedom when it comes to what we can offer to our babies as a first food. Try not to let the introduction of these foods scare you! If there is something in your or your family’s history that is leading you to question whether or not you should go full steam ahead, be sure to have a chat with your doctor.  This is a fun, new experience for the both of you, try to remain calm and enjoy every minute!

You can chat live with the Happy Mama Mentors to get answers to all of your nutrition and baby and tot feeding questions here.

Sources:

“Starting Solid Foods” Healthy Children.org < https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Switching-To-Solid-Foods.aspx> date accessed 19 July 2018

“When Can I Start Giving My Baby Peanut Butter?” Healthychildren.org< https://www.healthychildren.org/English/tips-tools/ask-the-pediatrician/Pages/When-can-I-start-giving-my-baby-peanut-butter.aspx > date accessed 19 July 2018