New advice on allergic foods for babies


Introducing your baby to solids is an exciting time in any parent’s life. With that first smattering of butternut and then a taste of pear, babies tend to get on board pretty quickly. As they go on their tastes get more complex and soon parents start wondering what else they can include in their child’s ever growing diet.

There’s not much that babies can’t eat. Dr Claudia Gray, a specialist in paediatric allergy, advises to "start for the first few weeks with "safe, easily digested low allergenic" foods such as butternut, sweet potato, rice cereal, maize cereal, apple and pear purée. Wheat and dairy can be introduced between 5 and 7 months. The ideal is to cover the start of solids with ongoing breastfeeding which seems to have a further protective effect."

By 9 months, my son is eating pretty much what we eat at meals. Of course we’re wary of added salt but there are other things that I needed to do a bit of research on.  Many family members warned against giving egg whites and peanut butter before my son was 1 years old. So I was very nervous about giving him these things.  

New advice for parents

But according to the American Academy of Pediatrics “Although solid foods should not be introduced before 4 to 6 months of age, there is no current convincing evidence that delaying their introduction beyond this period has a significant protective effect on the development of allergies. This includes delaying the introduction of foods that are considered to be highly allergic, such as fish, eggs, and foods containing peanut protein.”

We asked Dr Gray for her opinion on this new research and she echoes what the AAP had to say and offered the following advice:

“After 6 months there is no need for any restrictions: so even highly allergenic foods such as peanut butter and egg can be introduced. The recommendations have changed as experts have found no evidence that delaying such solids reduced allergies to them; in fact the current thinking is that earlier may even be better from the allergy perspective.

The only exceptions are children with severe eczema, and those with siblings with a food allergy- these children are at higher risk of food allergies and should ideally be tested to the foods in question before introducing them; but if they test negative the foods can then still be introduced from 6 months onwards.”

Testing, testing

If you are concerned about allergies you can have your child tested either by a skin prick test or a blood test. These tests are for "immediate type" allergies, typified by hives, swelling, vomiting or even chest symptoms. Both of these can be done from 4 months old. The skin prick test can be done by allergists and some paediatricians with an interest in food allergy. 

This article does not constitute as medical advice. Please consult your doctor if you have any concerns about food allergies.

Have you introduced any foods considered to be highly allergic at an earlier age?

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24