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Introducing new foods to your child

Food allergies can be as scary to new parents as the monster under the bed might be for Baby. But the worries with allergies can’t be solved as easily as figuring out which relative is letting her watch scary movies when they babysit. Food allergies are a very real danger that affect one out of every twenty-five children in the U.S. Introducing Baby to new foods should be an exploration of her new taste-buds, but worrying about allergies can cut into the fun of that adventure.

Common wisdom about the right time to introduce Baby to allergenic foods has evolved significantly over the past few years. It used to be generally accepted that highly allergenic foods should be introduced later. The idea was that babies who were a little older would be better prepared to handle an allergic reaction, and that waiting might reduce the chance of allergies. However, a 2013 study, supported by other data since, suggests that introducing allergenic foods like eggs, fish, and peanuts within Baby’s first 4 to 6 months could actually reduce the risk of food allergies, even if there is a family history of them. The American Academy of Pediatrics, no longer recommends waiting to introduce these foods.

Expert advice

Before introducing potentially allergenic foods, it’s always a good idea to consult with Baby’s pediatrician about the best way to introduce these foods. If Baby comes from a family history of food allergies on either side, for example, or has a sibling with a serious food allergy, your pediatrician may recommend introducing those or other allergens at a certain time, or even while you and Baby are already in the hospital for a checkup.

Taking the plunge

There’s a good chance that your pediatrician will just recommend introducing potential allergens in your and Baby’s own time. The best way to introduce potential allergens is still one at a time every 3 to 5 days. This way, if Baby begins to show an allergic reaction, you’ll have a good idea of what’s to blame.

Like with anything Baby hasn’t tried before, she may not be a huge fan from the first bite. Combining a new food with something familiar, like a favorite mashed vegetable, could help convince Baby to give the new food a chance. Early exposure to potentially allergenic foods doesn’t mean they have to be the main dish, either – you can start by cutting up a hard-boiled egg for Baby, but you could also just use a pancake recipe that includes eggs – the trace amounts of egg protein are a fine first exposure.

Signs of an allergic reaction

If you believe Baby is showing signs of an allergic reaction, especially after introducing a new allergenic food, you should contact a healthcare professional.

  • Hives (red spots or splotches on the skin)
  • Trouble breathing or wheezing
  • Swelling of the tongue or lips
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy or passing out

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