Feeding your baby common food allergens early may actually safeguard against life-threatening allergic reactions.
Never thought of scrambled eggs or peanut butter as first foods for your baby? Introducing them early may actually help guard against food allergies, according to a new analysis of nearly 150 studies, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Babies who ate peanut products between the ages of 4 and 11 months had a 70 percent lower risk of developing a peanut allergy than babies who didn't get them as early. There was a 40 percent drop in risk of egg allergy for babies fed eggs between 4-6 months.
The most common food allergens—such as eggs, peanuts, and fish—used to be no-nos in the first year to help prevent reactions. But thinking has recently changed. "The evidence is telling us that delaying introduction of these foods to the infant's diet increases their risk of developing a food allergy," says researcher Robert Boyle, M.D., Ph.D., clinical senior lecturer in pediatric allergy at Imperial College London. "So parents might want to ensure that these foods are introduced into their infant's diet soon after they start solid foods." The American Academy of Pediatrics gives the green light to potential allergens when starting solids as well, but you should always talk to your doctor first—especially if there's a family history of food allergies or if your child already has eczema or another sign of allergy.
When you're ready to give these foods a try, here are some serving ideas: Puree hard-boiled egg with breastmilk or formula and serve it plain or mixed with baby oatmeal and pureed fruit. Stir a small amount of creamy (smooth) peanut butter into baby cereal until melted and blended well. Don't forget that nuts and peanuts are choking hazards and should never be given whole to babies.