When and why should I introduce allergenic foods to my baby? 

Author: Ingrid Roche, Accredited Practising Dietitian | FOOD ALLERGY

There is some confusion about when to introduce allergenic foods to babies with some Facebook groups recommending avoiding common allergens such as peanut during pregnancy and breastfeeding and delaying giving it to your baby! This is NOT CORRECT!

There is now good evidence that introducing peanut to your baby EARLY including whilst pregnant and breastfeeding can PREVENT food allergy, especially in high risk infants.  A large high-quality UK study in over 600 infants found that introducing peanut to babies who have a higher risk of developing food allergy can reduce the risk of developing peanut allergy by around 80 percent, compared with avoiding peanut. 80 percent! That’s huge!

The advice from expert allergy and infant feeding groups is to introduce all common allergens to babies before the age of 12 months.  Once you’ve introduced it, include in the diet REGULARLY – once or twice a week. This is important because REGULAR EXPOSURE TO THE ALLERGEN HELPS WITH ONGOING TOLERANCE TO THE FOOD.

What are the common allergens? They are peanuts, egg, soy, cows’ milk, shellfish, sesame, fish, wheat and tree nuts.

Introducing allergens in the first 12 months is especially important for preventing food allergies in high risk babies.  These are babies with a parent or sibling with allergies; babies with eczema and babies who already have a food allergy (these babies should continue to avoid the food they are already allergic to). For more information see www.preventingfoodallergies.com.au

Solid foods including allergens should not be introduced before 4 months of age, and should be introduced when the baby is developmentally ready, which is usually around 6 months of age. If you can, keep breastfeeding while you are introducing solids.

If you’re really worried about introducing the allergens, the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) has some guidelines about this. You may find it helpful to talk to your GP or allergy dietitian first.

If you’re introducing allergens at home and you’re worried about a reaction, rub a little of the food on the inside of your babies’ lip, wait 15 to 30 minutes and if there is no reaction give small amounts every 15 to 30 minutes until you get to 1-2 teaspoons. If your baby is ok, include that food in their diet a couple of times a week.

See this guide from ASCIA for more information https://www.allergy.org.au/images/pcc/ASCIA_PCC_How_to_introduce_solid_foods_2017_new.pdf.

Do not do this for foods your baby is already allergic to! Continue to avoid the food/foods that your baby is allergic to.

An important thing to remember is that no child under the age of two has died from anaphylaxis to a food, so introducing foods at home is ok to do – we’ve been doing it for thousands of years!

If you are at all concerned, book in to see us.  We specialise in food allergies and can help you.

About the Author

Ingrid Roche is a Perth Dietitian specialising in food allergies, paediatric nutrition and pregnancy nutrition. She is the co-founder of Advanced Dietitians Group and loves working with people and families. She has been a dietitian for 23 years. She continues to work as a Senior Paediatric Dietitian and as the allergy dietitian at Perth Children’s Hospital and has worked in various hospitals in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. When she is not working, she is trying to keep up with her three young adult kids!

About Advanced Dietitians Group

Advanced Dietitians Group was founded in 2014 by Belinda Martin and Ingrid Roche, Perth dietitians with a combination of over 40 years’ experience in the industry. Both dietitians have a range of experience across the lifespan but specialise in paediatric nutrition, pregnancy nutrition, infant nutrition and food allergies. They provide up to date evidence-based nutrition advice. This coupled with their wealth of experience in dietetics ensures you get the best possible nutrition service. They get a buzz out of helping their clients and their families.


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