Whilst the thought of introducing allergens during weaning may seem a little scary for some, it’s worth remembering that only 3-6% of infants in developed countries are diagnosed with a food allergy. That means that 94-97% of infants will not be allergic to any foods.
What are the main food allergens?
- Cow’s milk
- Sesame and other seeds
- Tree nuts
When should I introduce these allergens?
Whilst it’s normal to feel a little nervous when introducing allergens to your baby it’s best not to delay their introduction much beyond 6 months. In some cases, research shows that deliberately excluding these foods from a baby’s diet may actually increase the risk of allergy. So once your baby has had fun exploring their first flavours, there is no reason why you shouldn’t begin introducing the nine main allergens, one by one, anytime from around 6 months.
How should I introduce these foods?
- Introduce allergens one at a time, either on their own or alongside foods that your baby already tolerates. Offering more than 1 new food at a time can make it difficult to identify which food caused a reaction
- Start off with small quantities. For example, ¼ – ½ teaspoon of the allergen mixed with a puree that your baby already tolerates. Offering very small portions at first means the symptoms are usually milder if your baby does have a reaction
- It’s a good idea to introduce allergens in the morning so you can look out for symptoms as the day progresses. It may also make it easier to respond to any symptoms and get treatment if necessary
- Introduce allergens when your baby is well and symptom free. This way the reaction will not be masked by other symptoms
- If the allergen is tolerated, continue to offer it, in some form, at least twice per week. You can gradually increase to dosage or portion of that allergen each time in order to build tolerance
- There is no set order to introduce these allergens although there is some evidence that it might be useful to introduce egg first, then peanuts. After that you can introduce the other allergens in any order and you may like to focus on the allergens you know feature regularly in your family’s diet
- If you are concerned about a reaction to food such as; swelling of lips, tongue and mouth/throat, wheezing or difficulty breathing, swallowing or speaking; noisy breathing; turning pale, floppy or sudden sleepiness you should seek medical attention quickly.
Is my baby at risk of developing a food allergy?
If your baby has already been diagnosed with a food allergy or suffers with severe, early onset eczema they may be considered ‘high risk’ for other allergies. If this applies to your baby it is best to speak to your GP or a paediatric dietitian before introducing any allergen.
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