You say weaning is tricky.
Between the internet overflowing with unchecked information, well-meaning relatives, neighbours and friends, I am not surprised that weaning onto high allergenic foods is confusing.
The internet generally focuses on just about everything that you ‘should’ avoid, whilst friends may share what’s worked for them specifically.
But here’s the problem with that.
What works for one child might not work for yours.
Children need and deserve tailor-made nutrition advice from an expert who works in the area of nutrition and dietetics, particularly when you are seeking advice on how to start weaning high allergenic foods.
Childhood allergy is increasing. Here’s what AllergyUKsays “A staggering 44% of British adults now suffer from at least one allergy and the number of sufferers is on the rise, growing by around 2 million between 2008 and 2009 alone. Almost half (48%) of sufferers have more than one allergy (Mintel, 2010)”
Refocusing on weaning, when the SACN report was published in July 2018, I was interviewed on the radio by Eamonn Holmes on radioTALK.
I was asked, “why are we getting it wrong in the UK when we have access to so much information?”
I’ve answered that question clearly in this Facebook page post here.
Why you should start weaning at 6 months
The good news is that the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) released their latest report to confirm that complimentary solids should only be commenced around 6 months of age and not before 4 months.
This is not new news I agree, but what’s great is that there should no longer be any confusion about when to start weaning your baby onto complimentary food or even high allergenic foods.
Don’t be tempted by misleading headlines that promise sleep with early weaning. If your baby is less than four months of age, developmentally, they are just not ready for solids.
Early introduction of solids reduces the amount of breastmilk your baby will take which increases their chance of infectious illness.
If you can, aim to breastfeed exclusively until 6 months of age. Breast milk provides your baby with protective proteins such as lactoferrin, secretory IgA, lysozyme and bifidus factors. These help your baby fight against bacterial and viral infections (reference).
“Babies introduced to solids earlier are much more likely to eat more than what their growing bodies need.”
The SACN report revealed that almost 75% of babies surveyed in the UK in 2013 exceeded their energy requirements. This puts them at great risk of childhood obesity.
Babies and children do come in all shapes and sizes. Teaching children to love their body regardless of their shape or size is powerful.
As parents, responding to hunger cues appropriately is important. If you program babies to eat more than they need that’s worrying and this may have hefty consequences in the future.
The verdict? Listen to your baby’s hunger cues. Babies cry for lots of reasons not just for hunger. If you have just fed your baby, do they need a cuddle, are they cold or did an unexpected noise wake them?
What about food allergy?
Let’s discuss the 290-page SACN document. I’ve taken out the most important points with regards to food allergy and weaning on high allergenic foods for you.
What are the common high allergenic foods?
Dairy, egg, sesame, wheat, peanut and fish
Which high allergenic weaning foods should you introduce and when?
Traditionally, the popular advice was to avoid all high allergenic foods including peanuts during pregnancy and when you first start introducing solids. The latest evidence has refuted this advice.
Recent innovative research in the area of weaning has blown our minds away on how you should be approaching weaning.
You can now start offering your baby just about anything as long as you start around 6 months of age and avoid adding salt or sugar. Remember to move swiftly onto iron-rich foods including lentils, pulses, leafy greens, meat, chicken, eggs and fish.
You may still want to start with vegetables and fruit for first tastes.
But there’s no reason why you need to delay introducing cooked eggs or fish for example.
If it’s planned for a family meal then you can introduce these high allergenic foods any time from when your baby is between 6 and 12 months of age.
How safe is it to give your baby high allergenic foods?
Only up to 8% of babies will develop a food allergy in the UK.
The latest report by SACN and two UK studies LEAP and EAT agree that you don’t need to avoid or delay introducing high allergenic foods.
“In fact, the deliberate avoidance or delayed introduction of any of the specific high allergenic foods may actually increase your child’s risk of allergy to that food.”
In other words, do not delay introducing eggs, fish, pasteurised dairy, gluten/wheat, sesame and nuts.
This advice stands even if someone in your home other than your baby has a food allergy to one of the above food allergens.
Does baby need an allergy test first?
Allergy testing can help identify babies who are at a very high risk of developing a food allergy.
It doesn’t prevent your baby from allergies and unnecessarily delaying introducing high allergenic foods whilst you wait for an appointment, for example, could potentially increase your baby’s risk of developing an allergy to that food.
The best course of action is to consult with a medical professional and paediatric dietitian.
Which babies are at high risk of developing a food allergy?
If your baby suffers from eczema, particularly severe eczema or has an existing food allergy then he/she will be more likely to be at risk of reacting to other high allergenic foods.
How do you start introducing high allergenic foods?
Let your baby guide you and follow his/her pace. You can start by introducing any one of the allergenic foods one at a time. For specific advice, speak to a paediatric dietitian.
If you start with eggs, for example, start by offering 1/2 a baby spoonful per day and slowly increase the amount offered every few days.
Once your baby is tolerating eggs without any reaction, just remember to offer it weekly so that they are regularly exposed to this allergenic food.
If your baby has severe eczema and you are worried, chat to your health visitor, GP or paediatric dietitian for specific advice.
Can I still follow baby-led weaning if I suspect a food allergy?
Yes, you can! When it comes to something like eggs, you can prepare quiche or omelettes and cut it into strips that baby can pick up.
Foods such as pieces of bread and pasta containing wheat/gluten are perfect when your baby is ready for these textures.
When introducing peanuts, simply spread the smooth nut butter onto toast whilst sesame seeds can be sprinkled over stir-fried vegetables. Babies will enjoy picking the veg using their hands.
Fish can be incorporated into home-made fish fingers and cakes or a petite tuna sandwich is perfect too. A fish sauce to coat pasta is fantastic too, but don’t mind the mess.
You can start weaning your baby onto high allergenic foods from 6 months of age.
There is no advantage in delaying the introduction of high allergenic foods, in fact, it could increase your baby’s chance of developing a food allergy to the very food that you are avoiding.
If your baby does have an allergic reaction to a food, it’s important that you stop giving your baby this food immediately. Seek medical advice.
- Resource for parents by bsaci and BDA Food Allergy Group
- Five Top Tips For Weaning
- Should You Spoon Feed Or Follow Baby Led Weaning
- How To Make Easy Dairy Free Banana Pancakes With Pumpkin
Here’s a video with a summary of when to wean high allergenic foods:
Let Me Help
Would you like to meet a children’s dietitian who has successfully helped families solve their nutrition problems from around the world?
Whether you are worried about picky eating, food allergy or need to help your child build a healthy relationship with food, I’ll help you manage these with confidence.
For bookings and enquiries email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Bahee Van de Bor
Specialist Paediatric Dietitian