A step-by-step guide to introducing potential food allergens during weaning
Delay. Give early.
It’s not surprising that the best time to introduce potential allergens is confusing. The advice has literally turned on its head in the last few years. Previously, parents were advised to delay the introduction of these foods, and you’ll still see this suggested online and in older weaning books. However, there’s no evidence that there’s no benefit to this approach.
Instead, two important studies, the LEAP study and the EAT study, show us that early introduction is a more effective way of reducing future food allergies. Delaying past 12 months may increase your child’s risk of developing an allergy.
Cows’ milk (including formula), eggs, peanuts, tree nuts and fish account for over 90% of all food allergies in Irish children. Wheat, soya, shellfish, sesame and other seeds are also common.
In my Baby Weaning Class parents regularly share that they are terrified about the prospect of introducing these foods, especially peanut. Try not to let the worry put you off introducing these foods as early on in weaning as you can.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you:
- Introduce each new potential allergen one at a time. If you introduce two together and your baby reacts, it’s hard to know which one is the culprit. Some people like to leave three days between each one.
- Start with small amounts (1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon) and gradually increase over a few days.
- Once successfully introduced offer regularly, at least once a week
- Choose a day when your baby is well
- If your baby has eczema ensure their skin is in excellent condition beforehand. If your baby has severe eczema (needed daily steroid cream) or already has a confirmed egg allergy, then speak with your doctor before you introduce peanuts at home.
- Try the food early in the day so you can monitor for symptoms.
- Continue to breastfeed while introducing solid foods, if possible.
- Some foods like citrus, tomato and strawberries can cause a red rash around your baby’s mouth, especially if they have sensitive skin. This irritation isn’t a food allergy, and there is no need to avoid these foods.
- Rubbing food on your baby’s lip or skin first is not the right way of identifying allergies.
- Offer these allergens at the start from a spoon rather than as finger foods. They need to ingest the allergens not wear them!
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You’ll find more information on starting weaning here. I also offer virtual weaning consultations and Baby Weaning Classes so you can get off to a Solid Start.