How to Reduce a Baby Food Allergy

Giving solids first time can be somewhat frightening to a lot of parents. The first fear factor is what if my baby is allergic to certain foods. It’s easy to think of avoiding any food that cause an allergy-like reaction, but science gives somewhat counter-intuitive advice to reduce the chance of a baby food allergy. The latest research and guidelines advise parents not to delay introducing common allergens like peanut to infants at weaning [1,7]. Now a lot of parents mix tiny bit of peanut butter to baby cereals as first food.

How do I discover baby food allergies?

  1. Some babies have a higher risk for food allergies:
    - If parents or siblings have allergies to any food or environment.
    - Babies with eczema are more likely to have food allergies [1,2]
  2. Allergic reactions include hives, skin rashes, itchiness, and face, tongue, or lip swelling, and vomiting. The symptoms usually develop within a few minutes to two hours [2]
  3. Most symptoms are mild, but severe reactions such as anaphylaxis and should be checked by a doctor [2,3,4,5,6].

Baby Food Allergy Myths

1. Babies should avoid taking common allergens?
Science says NOT to delay introducing common allergens as an early introduction may reduce the risk. Research has shown that an early introduction of peanuts and eggs actually reduce the chance of developing these food allergies [1,7]. This is what a lot of pediatricians are recommending for most babies. Of course you want to be careful to observe baby’s reactions when introducing common allergens.

2. It’s hard to predict food allergies? It’s not totally untrue, but 90% of food allergies are to these 8 foods [3,4,5,6]:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish (e.g., bass, flounder, cod)
  • Crustacean shellfish (e.g., crab, lobster, shrimp)
  • Tree nuts (e.g., almonds, walnuts, pecans)
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat
  • Soybeans

Foods made with those common allergens can also be allergens. For example, cheese made with cow’s milk can cause an allergy. However, proteins in the cheese are broken down during fermentation, so the risk is lower than of milk itself. While most babies grow out of milk, egg, soy, and wheat allergies. Other food allergies are harder to outgrow.

3. Once a baby shows allergic reactions, the food should not be given again
Healthcare providers recommend giving another try after 2-12 weeks to confirm. Mild symptoms may not occur again. Even if mild allergic reactions occur again, it doesn’t mean that avoiding the ingredient for good. A baby food allergy occurs when the immune system considers certain proteins as a threat. Since babies’ immune systems are constantly developing, most babies eventually grow out of food allergies by frequently interacting with the food [1].

It’s contradictory to most advice saying not give any allergy-inducing food, but those advice is usually for kids older than 5.  A lot of changes happen during infants’ development, and going through mild allergies is simply a process of growing. Just remember, certain food allergies still may stay, and your baby must see a healthcare professional for severe reactions like breathing difficulties.

4. Food allergies related to food sensitivities?

While an allergy is an immune response, food sensitivity or intolerance is usually a metabolic problem, which means one’s body may not produce enough enzymes to digest certain food compounds. Those who with lactose intolerance don’t produce enough lactase (the enzyme) to properly break down the lactose in milk, which results in gas or discomfort in stomach. This is not life-threatening like anaphylaxis [2,6].

5. Parents can diagnose food allergies?
Only doctors confirm food allergies as there are many reasons why a baby can show allergy-like symptoms. Doctors can perform skin and blood tests to confirm specific allergies.

How to use Nuttri to plan baby meals testing for allergens

Most healthcare provides suggest introducing an allergen at a time. Once your child does well with one allergen, try another allergen, or pair the new food with one he/she already likes. For high risk babies, you might want to consult a doctor beforehand.

  1. Recognize common allergens with Nuttri’s icons.
  2. Use Nuttri’s meal plan calendar to introduce one allergen at a time. Wait to introduce another allergen in another 2-3 days.
  3. If no symptoms are seen, gradually increase the amount and include the ingredient to your baby’s meal plan.
  4. If any symptoms are observed, add the item to the “Watchlist”. Then, add the item in the meal plan 2 weeks later. If the symptom is observed again, consult with a health care provider.