In their baby's third month, many parents begin to look forward to the time when they can start feeding their baby cereal, fruits, vegetables, and other baby food.
Should you be in such a big rush?
Experts once recommended delaying the introduction of solid foods until infants were at least six months old in hopes of preventing the high-risk baby from developing food allergies. They also recommended that infants and toddlers "avoid eggs until 2 years of age and avoid peanuts, tree nuts, and fish until 3 years of age."
That advice has changed now though.
Can you Prevent Food Allergies?
Previous recommendations to delay giving kids allergy foods ended up not being helpful and didn't actually prevent kids from developing allergies.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, in their latest recommendations, now state that infants can "begin consuming foods in addition to breast milk or formula after 4 months of age, preferably at 6 months of age."
Although there aren't any restrictions on what solids you can feed your baby any more, for babies who are at high risk for developing allergies, experts do still state that exclusively breastfeeding for at least 4 months can help decrease the risk of developing eczema or a cow's milk allergy though. If a baby isn't breastfeeding, then feeding a partially or extensively hydrolyzed baby formula may be helpful too.
How do you know if your baby is at high risk for developing food allergies?
Risk factors include:
- having another allergic disorder, such as hay fever, asthma, or eczema
- having other food or formula allergies
- having a family member, such as a parent or sibling, with a food allergy or hay fever, asthma, or eczema
Preventing Food Allergies
Again, it is recommended that these children who are at high for allergies should:
- breastfeed exclusively until they are 4 months old or if not breastfeeding, they should consider drinking a hypoallergenic formula, such as Nutramigen or Alimentum.
- start solid foods after 4 to 6 months of age
- delaying allergy foods which are most likely to trigger allergies is no longer recommended
Many experts do still recommend that a parent introduce allergy foods carefully though. Introduce them gradually, even giving your high-risk child his first taste at home where you have an antihistamine handy in case he has an allergic reaction. You can then gradually give more as you are convinced that he is tolerating the foods well, that way he won't have his first taste and first reaction at day care or school.
And while it was once recommended that breastfeeding mothers of a baby who is at risk for food allergies might consider eliminating certain allergy foods from her diet, including peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, cow's milk, and fish, that is also not considered to be helpful at preventing food allergies.
Dee, Deborah. Sources of Supplemental Iron Among Breastfed Infants During the First Year of Life. Pediatrics October 2008; 122:Supplement 2 S98-S104
Greer, Frank MD. Effects of Early Nutritional Interventions on the Development of Atopic Disease in Infants and Children: The Role of Maternal Dietary Restriction, Breastfeeding, Timing of Introduction of Complementary Foods, and Hydrolyzed Formulas. Pediatrics 2008;121;183.