Introducing allergen foods to your baby
Updated: Oct 1, 2018
Long gone are the days when it was recommended to delay introduction of allergen foods such as nuts and egg to your baby.
Now the evidence is incredibly compelling: introduce all the top allergen foods in the first year of your baby's life to help prevent the development of allergies.
A study called the LEAP study conducted in 2015 in London had some very important findings which really turned the advice been given at the time on its head. The study examined how peanut allergy can be best prevented in young children at high risk of developing peanut allergy.
Infants and young children who started eating peanut from under the age of 1 (4-11 months) and kept eating peanut at least 3 times per week were 80% less likely to develop peanut allergy by the age of 5 than those who were provided with the standard information to avoid peanut.
So rather than babies avoiding allergenic foods such as peanuts, tree nuts (all nuts except peanut), egg, dairy, soy and fish all babies should be given these protein foods such as peanut butter, well cooked egg, dairy and foods made from wheat BEFORE they turn one.
Even babies that come from a family with a history of food allergy should be given these foods rather than avoiding them. Delaying these foods clearly does not prevent allergies. It should be noted that a small number of babies will go on to develop food allergies following this advice.
Introducing these foods before the age of one and continuing to provide on a regular basis helps your baby's immune system to recognise these proteins as being friendly and not a danger to mount a defence against.
When an infant is ready, at around 6 months, but not before 4 months, start to introduce a variety of solid foods, starting with iron-rich foods, while continuing breast feeding.
This nip allergies in the bub website provides loads of information on introducing nuts, eggs, dairy, and wheat in your babies diet and different forms of these foods depending on how old bub is.
It also gives important information symptoms of allergy reactions if your baby does react to any foods.
A note on nuts: introduce peanuts but also tree nuts as well! In a form that baby can tolerate of course as a paste or very finely ground up and mixed into foods.
Many folks get confused between peanuts and tree nuts. Peanuts are actually a legume rather than a proper nut as they grow under ground. Tree nuts grow on trees/above ground and are all the other nuts: almonds brazil nuts, cashews, hazel nuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios. A coconut is not a nut despite having the word nut in its name.
So the best thing for baby to help minimise risk of allergies developing is to introduce allergenic foods before turing one in an acceptable form and keep up in the diet 2-3 times per week.
Du Toit et al. Randomized Trial of Peanut Consumption in Infants at Risk for Peanut Allergy. N Engl J Med 2015; 372:803-813DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1414850
Nip Allergies in the bud. Accessed from: https://preventallergies.org.au Accessed on: 16/9/18.
ASCIA Guidelines - infant feeding and allergy prevention. Accessed from: https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/allergy-prevention/ascia-guidelines-for-infant-feeding-and-allergy-prevention. Accessed on 16/9/18.