This is a guest post by: Jennifer Hanft, MS RD CSG is a mother to Hudson (3) and Evelyn (2). She has over ten years of experience as a registered dietitian and is a member of the Starting Solids Network for Health Professionals.
Baby Led Weaning Part #3, Introducing Allergens.
- Introduce allergens early and often.
- There are nine primary allergens.
- Introduce one at a time, for several times, and watch for a reaction.
- Stay calm and have fun!
This is the third and final addition in my baby led weaning series. In part one, I explored what baby led weaning is and some key benefits, and then part two offered some practical tips and tricks for getting started. In this third and last piece, I am going to explore introducing your baby to allergens.
If you want to get caught up, here are the links to the first two articles.
Part 1 Baby Led Weaning: What & Why
Starting your little one on solid foods can be overwhelming, especially in the age of Google. Deciding how and when to introduce possible food allergens is quite stressful for most parents. This post aims to help reduce that stress by giving you some knowledge and tools we hope will help you confidently and calmly begin feeding your baby the most common food allergens.
Common allergens for babies.
Let's start by defining the word allergen. An allergen is any substance eaten or inhaled that the immune system recognizes as foreign and therefore triggers an allergic reaction. Nine foods, including peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, crustacean shellfish, fish, soy, wheat, egg, and sesame, cause about ninety percent of allergic reactions.
When and how do I introduce allergens to my baby?
To make it even more confusing for parents, the official guidelines for introducing allergens to babies and suggestions for preventing food allergies have changed significantly in the past decade. The current recommendations for infants with a low risk of allergies are introducing allergens at around six months old while you're introducing other foods.
Experts also recommend introducing potential allergens, over and over again, as your child grows. Feeding your child an allergen once is not enough. The body needs to experience a type of food multiple times, determine it isn't a foreign substance, and avoid an allergic reaction. There is a considerable body of evidence indicating that introducing allergens early and often reduces the risk of developing food allergies.
Infants with asthma, eczema, hay fever, or a family history of food allergies are considered high risk for food allergies. If your baby is a high risk, you should discuss introducing food allergens with your pediatrician at your baby's two to four-month wellness visit.
There is no need to space out introducing non-allergenic foods to your little one. With allergenic foods, however, it's recommended that you feed the food to your baby for a few days in a row, monitor for any reaction, and then move on to the next. So, for example, start by introducing peanut allergen several days in a row. Then if everything seems good, try egg several days in a row and so on until the list is done. Once you know your little one can eat specific allergens, you can combine them in the same meal or on the same day.
It's optimal to introduce all nine allergens before your baby is nine months old, but don't stress about this timeline. If it takes a bit longer, that's totally fine. Every baby and every family moves at their own pace!
How can I tell if my baby is allergic to a particular food?
Note that an allergic reaction usually happens within fifteen minutes of ingesting food but may occur any time within two hours.
Symptoms to look for include:
- Red dots around the mouth
- Swelling around the eyes, face, lips, throat, and tongue
- Fussiness right after eating a food
If you think your little one had an allergic reaction, contact your pediatrician immediately.
Below are some of our favorite ideas for introducing the top nine allergens. Some of these combine allergens, so be sure your little one has had each of these independently before putting them together.
Meal ideas for introducing allergens to babies.
- Peanut butter or ground peanut powder thinned with breastmilk or formula.
- Banana rolled in peanut powder.
- Peanut butter spread thinly on wheat toast (if wheat is already introduced).
- Peanut butter or peanut powder mixed with oatmeal.
- Egg omelet sliced into strips. Use butter or cheese if you've already introduced dairy.
- Scrambled eggs with meat, vegetables, and cheese if dairy has already been introduced.
- Quartered hard-boiled egg.
- French wheat toast with peanut or nut butter on it if you have already introduced nuts.
- Full-fat, plain, or Greek yogurt with no added sugar
- Whole milk ricotta or low sodium cottage cheese
- Shredded mozzarella or swiss cheese, which are naturally low in sodium, on wheat pasta.
You should avoid giving your baby cow's milk to drink before they are one year old, but mixing it in baked products is okay.
Tree Nuts (e.g., pecans, almonds, walnuts)
- Ground up nuts thinned with breastmilk or formula.
- Banana, baked apple, or ripe pear lightly dusted in ground-up nuts.
- Nut butter spread thinly on wheat toast if you’ve introduced wheat.
- Nut butter or nut powder mixed with oatmeal or yogurt if you’ve introduced dairy.
Shellfish (e.g., shrimp, lobster, crab)
- Lump crab meat or soft shellfish, just make sure pieces are small enough or easily broken up
- Shrimp or crab cakes mixed with already introduced foods like egg or wheat.
- Sliced shrimp for babies who can use a finger and thumb to pick up food with a pincer grasp.
- Watch out for shells!
- We love salmon (a.k.a. “pink fish” in our house!) or baked cod flaked into thin pieces after cooking.
- Fish cakes mixed with already introduced foods like egg or wheat.
- Canned, no salt added deboned sardines. Believe it or not, many babies love these, and they are a great source of omega-three fats.
- Avoid fish high in mercury, such as swordfish, shark, and tuna. Generally, we serve one of these no more than once a week.
- Watch out for bones. Flaking fish with your fingers before serving helps with this.
- Baked tofu sticks, seasoned with herbs and spices, or served plain, and you can cut into tiny cubes once your little one has a pincer grasp.
- Smashed soybean edamame.
- Soy milk with oats or cereal if you have introduced wheat.
- Toast sticks.
- Pancake if you've introduced wheat and dairy.
- Sugar-free, low sodium cereal.
- Grind and roll sesame on an avocado or banana.
- Spread tahini sesame seed paste thinly on toast if you've introduced wheat.
- Homemade hummus with tahini and no salt. Note this freezes well.
Try to have fun!
Remember, when it comes to the top nine food allergens, introduce them early and don't stop after the first few servings. Most importantly, be prepared, stay calm, and enjoy teaching your baby about the wonderful world of food.
We have loved sharing our tips about baby-led feeding and allergen introduction with you in this series and hope they help you and your little ones on your feeding journey!
Littlemore Organic snack puffs were intentionally designed to be ideal for baby led weaning.
- Babies can pick them up and feed themselves.
- They encourage babies to learn how to bite and chew.
- At the same time, they melt in the mouth so no teeth are needed.
- Their shape and texture are specifically created to NOT pose a risk for choking.
- Our savory forward flavors help wee ones learn to enjoy a wide range of tastes
- A crunchy, yet dissolvable, texture teaches babies that food has a shape, consistency, and solidness
- Unlike with most purees and pouches, we don’t add sugar which helps little ones learn that food doesn't need to be sweet.
- They can be used to dip into other yummy and nutritious things like apple sauce or hummus, making food fun, while also developing new motor skills.
- They take time to chew and eat, so they help your little one learn to pace themselves when eating and notice when they've had enough. This is hard to do with purees.
- They are delicious so kids (and their parents) love eating them.
From our families to yours,
Joana + Lauren