Peanuts for Your Peanut: Introducing Food Allergens to Babies

Feeding your newborn can be an unforgettable experience — watching them discover different flavors and textures for the first time, and finding their favorite dishes — but for every bit wonderful, it can also be worrisome too. As a parent, you’re all-too familiar with ever-present choking hazards (and as a new parent, those hazards might seem to be hiding everywhere). But one worry that you can actually do something about is that of food allergies. 

Carefully introducing food allergens to your baby is a great way to not only determine what sensitivities they may have — it can also help you prevent them from developing in the future! Although it might be nerve-wracking at first to worry that your baby might have a reaction to something they eat, being prepared with the knowledge and tools to keep your baby safe is the best way to move forward when integrating solids. Keep reading for our tips on introducing food allergens to babies!

Why Introduce Allergenic Foods?

New research has shown that introducing food allergens to babies at an early age might actually help counteract the potential for developing a sensitivity in the first place. Yes, exposing your baby safely and regularly, might actually reduce your baby’s risk! Because of this, many pediatricians recommend that parents introduce typical allergens to their babies at a young age. 

When to Start Introducing Food Allergens to Babies

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), allergens can be introduced at the same time as you start your baby on other solid foods, or at around four to six months of age. Be sure to wait until your child is at least four months old to introduce solids of any kind, so that they have a chance to grow ready for new foods. It is ideal to try to include commonly allergenic foods in your baby’s diet by age 12 months.

The Top Allergens for Babies

Although most foods have potential for a reaction, there are some common foods to watch out for when introducing your baby to solids. Top allergens for babies include eggs, peanuts, cow’s milk, tree nuts, soy, sesame, wheat, and seafood (including shellfish). While all new solid foods should be integrated into your child’s diet slowly and regularly, take special care with any foods that appear on allergenic foods lists for babies. 

Starting the Process

Now that introducing food allergens early is more common practice, great products have hit the market to make this process easier. Powders, puffs, and baby foods containing top allergens for babies are all available to purchase for new parents looking for an easy way to integrate new foods into their baby’s diet. Some of these products will have just one allergenic ingredient, such as peanut powder, for your baby’s first taste, while others contain several in small quantities to get your baby used to these new foods with repetition over time. 

If your family has a history of food allergies, or if your baby has eczema, take this into account when trying new foods. If this is the case, consider testing your baby for allergies first under the guidance of your pediatrician. If you have taken these precautions and are ready to start introducing new foods to your baby, be sure to begin with solid foods that are not commonly allergenic first. Whenever you begin trying new foods that might cause a reaction, feed your baby first in a home setting or under doctor supervision. Always have epinephrine with an auto-injector at hand at all times before feeding your baby any foods that they might be sensitive to. 

Spotting an Allergic Reaction 

The most common symptoms of allergic reaction are hives and vomiting, but this is not all that could happen! Other common symptoms include swelling and itching of the face, mouth, eyes, and skin. Additional potential symptoms to keep a close eye out for include nausea, diarrhea, nasal congestion, wheezing, coughing, sneezing, dizziness, rapid heart beat, low blood pressure, and losing consciousness. While reactions commonly occur within minutes after feeding, it is important to keep an eye on your baby for a few hours to ensure that they are tolerating the new foods properly. 

What to Do in the Event of a Reaction

If you notice any signs of potential allergic reaction, stop feeding immediately and consult a medical professional. It is essential to take any reaction seriously as it could quickly escalate into anaphylaxis even if your baby has had mild symptoms to the same food in the past. 

In the event of a severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis, hold your baby in your arms as flat as possible. If your baby is experiencing any breathing trouble, sit them up. If your baby is vomiting or has fainted, lay them on their side.

Administer epinephrine with an auto-injector immediately and take note of the exact time you used it. Call 911 as soon as possible, explain that your baby is having an anaphylactic reaction, and request an ambulance. Tell the full story to the ambulance staff so they can be prepared for the best way to proceed. 

At Coastal Kids Pediatrics, we understand that navigating introducing food allergens to babies can be a tricky and worrisome process. Our team of passionate and knowledgeable pediatricians are here for you every step of the way. If you are interested in an allergy consultation to develop a custom plan for your little one, please visit our website or call your nearest Coastal Kids location.