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Food Allergies and Baby: What to Expect

unpicky eating Jan 04, 2021

Introducing solid food to your baby should be a joyful time, but many parents I speak with are often concerned about food allergies. I’m not surprised.

A simple Google search or a quick scroll on social media usually offers outdated information or conflicting advice on when and even how to introduce allergenic food to your baby. Plus, we’ve all heard a scary story or two from a mom friend, a co-worker, or a relative about so-and-so’s kid who had a severe reaction to peanut, egg, strawberry, etc.! So, what’s a parent to do?

To help answer your food questions so you and your baby can enjoy those first bites, I spoke with Dr. David Stukus, a pediatric allergist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, on my podcast Raising Good Parents. You can listen to our entire conversation here or keep reading for the Cliff Notes version. 


When should you start introducing allergenic foods? 
Research on food allergies is always a work in progress, and as new evidence comes to light, medical professionals change their approach to how they educate families and parents. This reason alone is why the food guidelines for your first kid might not be the same for your third or fourth kid.

According to Dr. David Stukus, all babies should be introduced to allergenic foods around four to six months of age, once they’ve already demonstrated the interest and the ability to tolerate other solids.

“Peanut butter shouldn’t be the first food they eat, but you can gradually introduce it,” says Dr. Stukus. “The evidence shows that the earlier you introduce it and keep it in the diet that can promote tolerance.”

However, Dr. Stukus added that the CDC recommends babies who have severe eczema should speak with their pediatrician at first to see if testing is needed before exposure.


How should you introduce new foods? 

In the olden days, many pediatricians recommended introducing one new food every three days. This is unnecessarily rigid and takes the fun out of trying new foods.  Instead, try new foods as often as you like. You can even do multiple new foods on the same day.

“What we should be promoting is it's a safe thing to do, and have fun with it,” says Dr. Stukus. “Get messy, try a variety of foods, tastes, textures, let your baby figure out what they like, what their natural tendencies are.” 


The Signs of Food Allergies in Babies

Symptoms of an allergic reaction in your baby may include: 

  • Rash
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Difficulty breathing 

 However, if your baby does have a severe allergic reaction, such as difficulty breathing, call emergency assistance immediately.


Other Baby Food Tips to Consider

Before labeling your child as allergic to squash, strawberries, or anything else, talk with your pediatrician to discuss the exposure and timing. Most often, I find that it is a local irritation or complete happenstance. We don’t need to avoid specific foods just because of a rash.

Now that you know how to spot allergy symptoms in babies, you can confidently feed your little one solid food. 

Bon appetit! 

Looking for more baby food tricks and tips? Check out my free Introduction to Solid Foods webinar!

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