Pregnancy: Basics of Baby Food Allergies for Dads
Food allergies affect around 1 in 18 babies before age 3, and may affect your baby. As with many facets of being a father, the ideas for solid food introduction and allergies has completely changed since you were a baby, a fact that can result in heated discussions between you and your parents.
How to introduce new foods
At one time, introducing solids early was all the rage in parenting, as if having your two-month-old chow down puréed carrots merited some sort of parenting prize. Today, pediatricians recommend waiting until a baby is four to six months old to introduce new foods to reduce the chance of developing food allergies, especially the five most common food allergens:
An almost unbelievable 90 percent of food allergies are caused by one of the big five, which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends introducing new foods one at a time. Age at the time of introduction is no longer considered a factor in whether a child develops allergies after six months.
How to recognize allergic reactions
Parents who have food allergies themselves may be looking for signs of allergies in their children, and allergic tendencies do run in families. Some common reactions, such as reddened cheeks after eating tomatoes or citrus fruits, aren’t actually allergies.
Nor is lactose intolerance, which is caused by a missing enzyme that breaks down milk products, an allergy. Irritability, skin rashes, and intestinal upsets are the most common signs of food allergy in infants.
Colic, skin rashes, and stomach upsets such as loose stools are the most common signs of food allergy, but severe anaphylactic reactions with difficulty breathing, hives, and loss of consciousness can also occur, often within minutes of eating the offending food. Get medical help immediately if this occurs.
Having previously eaten a food without a reaction is no guarantee that an allergic reaction won’t occur; reactions don’t generally occur the first time a person is exposed to a substance. Always call your baby’s doctor if a significant reaction occurs and follow his recommendations on treatment.
How to prevent allergic reactions
The best prevention for allergy development is exclusive breast-feeding for at least the first four to six months of life. (Some evidence exists for prevention of wheezing in infancy and early childhood by exclusive breast-feeding for the first three months of life.) There’s no proof that use of soy formulas prevents allergies compared to cow’s-milk-based formulas; in fact, many children with cow’s-milk allergies are also allergic to soy.
Cook fruits and vegetables for your infant instead of serving them raw because cooking appears to decrease the risk of allergic reactions. Processed foods, including junior baby foods, contain a number of ingredients, which makes it hard to tell what an infant is reacting to if she develops an allergic reaction.
If your child has severe allergies, your pediatrician may recommend carrying an auto-injector containing epinephrine in case of serious allergic reaction. Fortunately, around 20 percent of children outgrow their food allergies by the time they hit school age.