Introducing solid foods: Allergies/Safety myths vs. facts

Recently, experts from Health Canada, the Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, and the Breastfeeding Committee for Canada released new evidence-based guidelines about starting your baby on solids.

A few weeks ago I blogged about “Introducing solids to your baby: myths vs. facts” with my goal being to sort out any confusion around this exciting new stage. Starting solids is such a popular topic with so many different dimensions that I received a great response. In today’s blog I want to share new information and dispel some myths about food allergies/safety when introducing solids to your baby: Baby and Chocolate

Myth 1:  I should delay offering my baby common food allergens like nuts and whole eggs.

Fact: Recent research suggests that delaying the introduction of common food allergens like eggs, fish, wheat and nuts provides no advantage in preventing food allergies.  All of these foods can be introduced at 6 months.  It is, however, suggested that you not offer more than 1 of these foods per day, and to wait a minimum of 2 days between offering other common food allergens.

Once these foods have been successfully introduced, continue to offer them on a regular basis. At this age, with supervision, it is safe to offer lumpy, mashed, ground, minced, and tender-cooked foods.

Myth 2:  If we have food allergies in the family (a sibling or parent) we should delay offering that food to our baby.

Fact: No – delaying food introduction does not help prevent food allergies in babies, nor does avoiding these foods during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.  If food allergies already exist in the family, your baby may be at a higher risk of developing them.  If you have concerns about specific food allergens,  speak to your healthcare provider before introducing them.

Myth 3:  A food allergy is the same as a food intolerance.

Fact: A food allergy and a food intolerance are two different things.  Reactions to food allergens can range from mild to severe. Once a food allergy has been identified, the only way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid that food.  Many babies and children outgrow their food allergies. A food intolerance can cause many uncomfortable symptoms ranging from bloating to indigestion, but they are not life threatening.

Myth 4:  Extra seasoning like garlic or herbs/zest should not be added into a baby’s food.

Fact:  If your family is used to eating foods with added flavour – go for it, but add them slowly into your baby’s food.  Adding salt, sugar and honey should be avoided. Giving honey to a child less than 1 year old can cause infant botulism – a serious type of food poisoning.

Myth 5:  Cow’s milk and water must be introduced at 6 months when other complementary foods are started.

Fact: Although both of these liquids are important as your child gets older, they are not a good replacement for nutrient-rich breastmilk.  Cow’s milk (3.25% M.F.) can be offered beginning at 9-12 months in an open cup.  Breastmilk provides water, which is more nutrient rich than water alone.  Water can be offered in small sips, but is not a good replacement for breastfeeding.

Myth 6:  I must wait 3-5 days between introducing each new food.

Fact: The thinking around spacing out new foods has recently changed with the new Infant Feeding Guidelines.  Typically, there is no need to wait between introducing each new food, except if that food is a common food allergen.   For common food allergens, wait a minimum of 2 days before offering another food from that category.

Myth 7:  At 6 months it is safe to offer my baby unlimited amounts of fish.

Fact:  Fish without bones is a great first food choice; however certain fish is high in mercury so you need to limit the amount of these types of fish in your baby’s diet.

Myth 8:  Commercially prepared baby food is less nutrient-rich than homemade baby food.

Fact:  Commercially prepared baby food like carrots and peas are just as nutrient-rich as homemade baby food.  However, food preparation at home gives us more control over things like texture, quantity, salt, sugar, variety and cost.  Babies are at a higher risk of food poisoning than adults, so always be extra careful and use safe food handling practices in the kitchen.

There you have it, a few less things to worry about! Now go grab the camera and feel confident about introducing solid foods to your new baby!

Do you have some more questions around this topic?

For parenting information, or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

 

 

About Carolyn Wilkie, RN

For most of my nursing years I have been out in the community supporting new parents on their fabulous and sometimes crazy journey into parenthood! I love working as part of the HaltonParents team. I have 2 sweet boys, who continue to amaze and surprise me everyday. So glad we could connect.
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