WITH allergies an increasing problem for Australian children, it’s easy to feel worried or confused about when to safely introduce potentially allergenic foods to babies.
This question asked by Sarah, who has an eight-month-old daughter, Lily, is typical of the uncertainty many parents face.
Sarah has recently heard from a friend that new recommendations encourage babies to be given peanuts before 12 months of age. However, her nephew has a peanut allergy, so she is unsure about when she should start giving Lily peanuts.
Recent studies have found that regularly including the more allergic foods, like egg and peanut, in a baby’s diet may reduce the chances of developing a food allergy.
As a result of these new findings, the Australasian Society for Clinical Allergy and Immunology released updated guidelines on infant feeding and allergy prevention.
The guidelines include a statement that infants should be given allergenic foods including peanut butter, cooked egg, dairy and wheat in the first year of life. These recommendations are for all infants, even those with a family history of allergies.
Some practical tips include:
– Introduce smooth peanut paste/butter during daytime so that you can watch your baby and easily respond if they have an allergic reaction.
– Start with a small amount ( teaspoon), and gradually increase the amount, for example teaspoon the next time. Importantly, once introduced, continue to regularly include peanut paste in your baby’s diet several times per week.
– If you notice any swelling of the lips, eyes or face, hives or welts, vomiting, or any change in your baby’s well-being (becoming very unsettled) soon after giving a new food, your baby could be having an allergic reaction, so you should stop that food and seek medical advice. If there are symptoms of anaphylaxis (difficult/noisy breathing, pale and floppy, swollen tongue), call an ambulance.
If you are particularly anxious about introducing an allergenic food to your child, speak with your GP, paediatrician or child health nurse.
For further information on infant feeding and allergy prevention, visit www.allergy.org.au.
––Dietician Debbie Palmer, Head of Childhood Allergy and Immunology Research at Telethon Kids Institute.
She is part of The Origins Project, a collaboration led by Telethon Kids Institute and the Joondalup Health Campus, is a long-term study into the health and development of 10,000 children expected to be born at the Joondalup Health Campus over the next few years.
For more information on the Origins Project and how to get involved, go to www.originsproject.telethonkids.org.au.