Starting Solids: Food Allergy and Intolerance

When it is time for your baby to start eating solids, it means that he is growing and has reached a new milestone in his life. No longer will he be simply nursing or taking a bottle. The timing for starting solids is important because of food allergies and intolerance.

Introducing solids

It is crucial that you avoid starting your baby on solids too early. Their digestive systems are immature, which often causes a food intolerance or highlights an allergy. Many pediatricians encourage mothers to wait until a baby is six months old before starting him on solids.

Food allergies vs. food intolerances

Most problems that babies have with food are actually food intolerances rather than allergies. A food allergy is often severe, and the reaction to the food happens immediately. There is always the danger of anaphylactic shock with an allergy.

Food intolerance, on the other hand, is not as dangerous. It is most commonly characterized by an upset tummy. Other characteristics may be gas, constipation, and puffiness or dark, thick lines under the eyes. These symptoms often (but not always) happen several hours after the food is eaten.

A method for introducing foods

Only introduce one food at a time, and let your baby eat the same thing for several days. This will give the baby's body time to adjust and will allow you to find out which foods may be a problem. If you notice a reaction to any food, stop giving it to your baby and talk to your pediatrician about it.

It is best not to introduce foods that are known to produce allergic reactions until after your baby is at least a year old. These foods would include cow's milk, nuts, gluten, citrus, eggs, fish and chicken. The reason for this is that babies have been on a plain, liquid diet, and their immune system and digestive system are still not mature. Once they can tolerate more, it's safer to introduce potential allergens one at a time.

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