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How to Introduce Food Allergens to Baby

September 21, 2020 3 min read

Feeding your baby is one of the most joyful experiences you’ll have while raising a child. Helping your baby move from a full liquid diet (breastmilk or formula) in early infancy to a mainly solid-food diet, at 12 months of age, is exciting and a lot of fun. However at times it can feel complicated, intimidating, or even scary. Here are a few tips on how to make feeding your baby new foods an amazing experience.

When to Introduce Allergens to Baby

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting your child on solids between 4 and 6 months of age. In a reversal from decades of advice from pediatricians to avoid the foods associated with food allergies, research now shows early and regular dietary exposure to a food — especially foods often associated with allergies, like peanuts — helps reduce the risk of a child developing an allergy to that food. Waiting too long to introduce and regularly feed these foods, research shows, increases the allergy risk.

Your job: Introduce common allergens (e.g., egg, peanut, fish, sesame) just as you introduce fruits and vegetables. Help your baby love and enjoy and tolerate all of these foods!

Consistency is Key

Intermittent or "one bite" exposure to foods may not be enough for allergen introduction. Like any great habit (think toothbrushing), research shows the immune system works best when it's exposed to a wide variety of foods regularly throughout a child’s early years. Scientists believe regular, consistent exposure to common allergens in the diet throughout early childhood is key to staying healthy. You can use this guide to talk with your pediatrician about our evidence-based approach to multi-allergen introduction.

Baby’s First Foods

There are no hard and fast rules on which food should come first, the decision is up to you. It’s more important to include regular exposure to diverse foods. Your baby’s little yet VERY SMART immune system is evolving as they begin to try new foods. Introducing a variety of foods can help guide the immune system by training it to recognize potentially allergenic foods as safe.

Consider feeding a variety of foods and baby snacks early when your little one is eager to begin solids, especially potential allergens like; eggs and shellfish, wheat, and nuts, into their diet. Some additional examples:

  • Avocados, bananas, very ripe peaches & pears
  • Soft cooked carrots, green beans, zucchini, sweet potatoes, apples, squash, pumpkin & beets
  • Cereals thinned to a near-liquid consistency with expressed breast milk or formula
  • Peanut butter thinned with water & mixed into oatmeal

How to Pace Food Introduction For Your Baby

Pediatricians, family doctors and nurses used to advise parents to go very slowly when starting solids and wait days in between introductions. Unfortunately, that often led to a delay in getting diverse foods into a baby’s diets.

The newest edition of Caring for Your Baby and Young Child, Birth to Age 5, which is published by the AAP, states: “In the past pediatricians recommended starting one new food every few days, so that you can see if a reaction occurs to that particular food. New research has shown that it is safe to start multiple foods at once. Within two or three months, your baby’s daily diet should include breast milk, iron-fortified whole-grain cereals, vegetables, meats (including fish), eggs, fruits, and nut butters (but never whole nuts) distributed among three meals.”