Starting Solid Foods and Allergies

Christine Sweeney, LICSW Program Manager, Parent Connection, BIDMC

SEPTEMBER 16, 2019

Baby girl tries first solid foods

For any new parent about to add solid foods to baby's diet, it can feel pretty overwhelming. Pediatric general guidelines are that babies typically start on solid foods somewhere between the ages of 4-6 months, and that often the first foods are iron fortified cereals. Pediatric practices then vary in their guidelines, and you just need to poll a moms group to see how wide the variation can run.

What tends to be pretty consistent however is that parents are directed to begin with introducing a single food at a time, and to wait for several days before introducing a new food, so to be sure that baby does not have an allergic reaction. But what exactly does an allergic reaction look like? Are there foods that are more likely to cause an allergic reaction than others, and what should a parent do if they think baby is having a reaction?

Low-Risk Foods

  • Single Grain, iron-fortified infant cereals made of rice, oats or barley
  • Strained vegetables such as squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, peas and green beans
  • Strained fruits such as pears, apples, bananas and prunes

Higher-Risk Foods include:

  • Citrus fruits, berries
  • Wheat
  • Shellfish
  • Egg whites
  • Cow's Milk
  • Peanuts

Please check and follow the guidelines recommended by your pediatrician about foods to start with and when to introduce foods that might have higher allergen risk.

Signs of an allergic reaction are:

  • Clear runny nose
  • Coughing
  • Diarrhea
  • Eczema or Hives (red spots that look like mosquito bites)
  • Facial Swelling (eye, lips, face)
  • Wheezing
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty Breathing (call 911)

Before starting solids, talk to your pediatrician about what you are to do if your baby exhibits symptoms of an allergic reaction. I often advise moms that when introducing a food for the first time, do it during normal work day hours, so that in the event that you have a question or concern, you are able to reach your pediatricians office and if necessary, bring your child in to be seen.

Don't hesitate to call your pediatricians office and if it is after hours, have the on-call doctor paged if you have any question about an allergic reaction. For any reaction where baby seems to have difficulty breathing, call 911.

Starting solids is a whole new fun and often messy adventure, and there are lots of different ideas on what to do. Whether you decide to make your own baby food, or buy it in a jar, the fact remains that breast milk or formula is the primary nutritional source during the first year of your baby's life. Talk to you pediatrician, or for a wealth of information about nutrition and starting your baby on solid foods, please visit the American Academy of Pediatrics' website.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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