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    When to start feeding your child high allergenic foods

    Some foods are more likely to cause allergic reactions than others. These are called high allergenic foods

    With thanks to Bahee Van de Bor, paediatric dietitian

    Why you should start weaning at 6 months

    The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) released a report to confirm that complimentary solids should only be started around six months of age and not before four months. In other words, it’s best not to give your baby solid foods until they are six months old and definitely not before they are four months old. Don’t be tempted by headlines that promise sleep if you wean your baby early. If your baby is less than four months of age, developmentally, they are just not ready for solids. Early introduction of solids reduces the amount of breast milk your baby will take which could increase their chance of infectious illness. As parents, responding to hunger cues appropriately is important. If you program babies to eat more than they need, it could have consequences in the future. Listen to your baby’s hunger cues.  Babies cry for lots of reasons not just for hunger.  If you have just fed your baby, do they need a cuddle, are they cold or did an unexpected noise wake them?

    What are the most common high allergenic foods?

    Dairy, eggs, sesame, wheat, peanuts and fish.

    Which high allergenic weaning foods should you introduce and when?

    Traditionally, the advice was to avoid all high allergenic foods including peanuts during pregnancy and when you first start introducing solids.   However, the latest evidence has changed this advice. You can now start offering your baby just about anything as long as you start around six months of age and avoid adding salt or sugar. Remember to move swiftly onto iron-rich foods including lentils, pulses, leafy greens, meat, chicken, eggs and fish. You may still want to start with vegetables and fruit for first tastes. But there’s no reason why you need to delay introducing cooked eggs or fish for example. If it’s planned for a family meal then you can introduce these high allergenic foods any time from when your baby is between 6 and 12 months of age.

    How safe is it to give your baby high allergenic foods?

    Only up to 8% of babies will develop a food allergy in the UK. The latest scientific reports agree that you don’t need to avoid or delay introducing high allergenic foods. “In fact, the deliberate avoidance or delayed introduction of any of the specific high allergenic foods may actually increase your child’s risk of allergy to that food.” In other words, don’t put off introducing eggs, fish, pasteurised dairy, gluten or wheat, sesame and nuts. This advice stands even if someone in your home other than your baby has a food allergy to one of these food allergens.

    Does baby need an allergy test first?

    Allergy testing can help identify babies who are at a very high risk of developing a food allergy. It doesn’t prevent your baby from allergies and unnecessarily delaying introducing high allergenic foods whilst you wait for an appointment, for example, could potentially increase your baby’s risk of developing an allergy to that food. If you have a reason to be worried, consider consulting with a medical professional and paediatric dietitian.

    Which babies are at high risk of developing a food allergy?

    If your baby suffers from eczema, particularly severe eczema or has an existing food allergy then he or she will be more likely to be at risk of reacting to other high allergenic foods.

    How do you start introducing high allergenic foods?

    Let your baby guide you and follow his or her pace.  You can start by introducing any one of the allergenic foods one at a time.   If you start with eggs, for example, start by offering half a baby spoonful per day and slowly increase the amount offered every few days. Once your baby is tolerating eggs without any reaction, just remember to offer it weekly so that they are regularly exposed to it. If your baby has severe eczema and you are worried, chat to your health visitor, GP or paediatric dietitian for specific advice.

    Can I still follow baby-led weaning if I suspect a food allergy?

    Yes, you can!  When it comes to something like eggs, you can prepare quiche or omelettes and cut it into strips that your baby can pick up. Of you can offer toast or pasta to introduce wheat and gluten. To introduce peanuts, just spread smooth peanut butter onto toast, and you can sprinkle whilst sesame seeds over stir-fried vegetables. Babies will enjoy picking the veg using their hands. Fish can be incorporated into home-made fish fingers and cakes or a petite tuna sandwich is perfect too.  A fish sauce to coat pasta is a fantastic alternative (but don’t mind the mess!).

    To summarise…

    You can start weaning your baby onto high allergenic foods from six months of age. There is no advantage to waiting any longer to introduce high allergenic foods, in fact, it could increase your baby’s chance of developing a food allergy to the very food that you are avoiding. If your baby does have an allergic reaction to a food, it’s important that you stop giving your baby this food immediately and seek medical advice.  

    About the author

    Bahee Van de Bor RD MBDA is a private paediatric dietitian and former Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children-trained specialist children’s nutritionist. Now based in Harley Street, you can find out more on her website. Follow her on Instagram @ukkidsnutrition or on Facebook @ukkidsnutrition. You can read more from Bahee about high allergenic foods here.   Disclaimer: The views and advice given in this article are those of the guest writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Weaning Week or any other organisations represented on this platform    

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