The Health Advocate

by Hannah Whittenly, The Health Advocate

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Some news reports indicate that children’s food allergies are on the rise. While this may be due to toddlers are being screened more carefully for suspicious symptoms and diagnosed with food sensitivities at an earlier age, this also suggests that parents should be careful in how they introduce baby food to their little ones during the first year or two. Taking adequate precautions will help to protect young children against the development of food allergies that can be avoided.

Don’t Introduce Solid Foods Too Soon

Your child’s doctor can advise you on the best time to try feeding pureed baby food to your child. Some pediatricians suggest trying small amounts of food as early as four months of age, but most pediatric professionals recommend waiting until the baby is six months old. Much depends on the child’s general health, the ability to swallow, and the effectiveness of breastfeeding or bottle feeding. Starting a baby on solids too soon may cause problems with the digestive system and possibly lead to allergies to foods like milk, eggs, and nuts.

Start with Basic Foods

Many doctors and child care experts recommend that a baby’s first food be a single item rather than mixed ingredients. Popular early feeding items include rice cereal mixed with breast milk or formula as well as carrots or peas individually. Each new food should be given in small amounts for several feedings to see if the child can tolerate it. After a few days or a week, try adding a second food, again separately for several days, to see how the baby reacts.

Take It Slow

Gradually introduce each new food and watch for possible allergenic reactions, like a rash, digestive distress, and respiratory symptoms like a runny nose or itchy eyes. If you buy commercial baby food, look for the numbered food level that fits your baby’s age. If you make homemade baby food, process it to the right texture for your child’s food level so that it is easy to chew and swallow.

Monitor Foods Linked to Allergies

As your child grows and teeth appear, he or she may be ready to eat table foods in small amounts. Avoid known allergy-prone foods like peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, and shellfish as well as honey until approved by your pediatrician. If suspicious symptoms appear, allergen testing by a medical doctor who specializes in allergies may be needed to confirm the allergy and prescribe treatment, even if it is just to discontinue giving your child that particular food.

Don’t take chances with your child’s health. Follow the doctor’s orders when serving solid food to ensure a smooth and safe transition.

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