Weaning Part IV: Allergies and Foods to Avoid
This post is part of a series of posts on breastfeeding and weaning. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this series and would love to hear your thoughts on it. You can find the other posts in the series here:
I’m no expert in health or allergies, but I have learned a bit about these things because I have struggled with allergies and a wide range of chemical and food sensitivities for most of my life. I have wrestled with how to maintain a healthy, active, balanced life without letting my allergies control me and without living on medication. I’ve learned a lot about my own sensitivities and how to control them or at least manage them. But, as I began to think about introducing solids to my sensitive little boy I panicked – I knew next to nothing about allergies and food sensitivities in babies.
The thought of my son possibly going through what I’ve gone through with my food sensitivities seriously depressed me. So, I have wanted to be extra cautious as I introduce solid foods and follow all the guidelines as closely as possible. I also plan on continuing nursing for much longer then the American standard since long-term nursing has time and time again been shown to reduce the occurrence of allergies and food sensitivities (but I’ll talk about that more in a future Weaning Series post).
Even though we have taken a fairly baby led approach to introducing solids we haven’t just let Thaddeus eat off of our plates, as is typically done with this method. Instead we have chosen to introduce one food at a time to him. Our approach has basically been to introduce one food and give it to him for two or three days in a row and then give him a day with only breast milk and watch him closely throughout. At this point he has tried egg yolk, pumpkin, carrots, and apple (the last three were all cooked with just a smidge of fresh butter from grass fed cows). So far we have not had any negative reactions. Of course since he is feeding himself he also isn’t getting very much of anything at a time. What little amount makes it into his mouth is often just enough to get a taste for it.
Introducing one new food at a time seems to be the most commonly given advice for baby’s who are likely to have food allergies/sensitivities due to the parents having allergies. We plan on continuing to introduce one food at a time slowly over the coming months until we have a decent repertoire of foods Thaddeus can eat. The other piece of advice that is commonly given is to avoid certain high risk foods for at least the first year.
Here are the foods that we plan on avoiding until after Thaddeus turns one (some of these we may avoid until even later than age one, but that is the minimum):
- This is something to avoid not because of allergies, but because of botulism, which can be very dangerous for babies. I plan on avoiding giving my son honey until at least one year of age and maybe two years.
- Cow’s Milk
- Thaddeus is breastfed and will continue to be breast fed so I see no need to introduce cow’s milk anytime soon. Breast milk is made perfectly for his body and is high in all the fat and nutrients he needs as a growing baby. Although we do drink cow’s milk as a family and it does have many wonderful nutrients and health benefits, it also is one of the most common allergens and can be difficult for young bodies to process. Cow’s milk has also been shown to interfere with the absorption of iron and introducing it too young can put babies at an increased risk for iron-deficiency anemia.
- Grains are often introduced as a first food for baby’s in America (i.e. rice cereal), but we have chosen to delay introducing grains until after Thaddeus is a year old. There are two reasons for this, the first is that grains, and wheat in particular, often cause allergic reactions in children. The second reason is that the enzymes needed to digest grains (particularly amylase) don’t really “kick into gear” until around 28 months of age. According to The Weston A. Price Foundation “a recent Swedish study suggests that when infants are given substantial amounts of cereal, they may suffer from low concentrations of zinc and reduced calcium absorption.” Because of all this we plan on delaying the introduction of grains until at least after Thaddeus’ first birthday. When we do introduce grains we will start with brown rice (the least likely to cause an allergic reaction) and then we will introduce soaked, soured and sprouted grains with wheat being the last to be introduced.
- Egg White
- If you’ve been reading along with this series you know that we’ve already introduced egg yolk to my son. The yolk of an egg is full of fat and cholesterol, both necessary for optimal development in babies, and it is unlikely to cause an allergic reaction. The egg white is a different story, however. Egg white regularly causes allergic reactions and we plan on avoiding it until after Thad’s first birthday.
- Peanuts and Nuts
- It is commonly recommended that these foods not be introduced until after one year of age because they are such common allergens. They also pose choking hazards and some people recommend that they be avoided until after two years of age, others suggest waiting even longer until three years of age. My plan is to wait until two years of age before introducing nuts, but we will see how it goes – if Thad shows a number of allergies already at that point we may wait longer, if he is healthy and does not have allergies we will feel more comfortable introducing them.
- Chocolate is a common allergen and Thaddeus already has trouble if I eat chocolate and then nurse him. Because of this we plan on delaying the introduction of chocolate till at least one year. Some recommend waiting until age two before introducing chocolate and we may do that if we feel it is necessary.
- Pork and Shellfish
- Pork and shellfish are common allergens and I plan on waiting to introduce them until after my son is at least one.
- Citrus and Tomato
- Citrus and tomato are also common allergens and although most people say they only need to be avoided until about 9 months I plan on waiting to introduce them until about 12 months. This is mainly because my son has already shown some problems with these two things. If I eat a lot of citrus or a lot of tomato and then breastfeed he almost always has problems with it – gas, bloating, fussiness, runny nose, etc.
After going through that list I will say this, there is recent research that suggests, and there are changing recommendations that say, that many of these foods can actually be introduced earlier than a year, particularly if the child is not at risk for allergies and has been exclusively breast fed for the first 4-6 months. I personally feel that I would rather play it safe and avoid these foods for at least the first year and maybe longer, especially since my son IS at risk for food allergies. But, I’d be curious to know what you all think…
If you have a child what foods did you avoid introducing until after a year? Is there anything you wish you had avoided longer? Or what foods do you plan on avoiding until after you child is a year old?
Rejoicing in the journey - Beth Stedman