In the past, doctors have cautioned parents against introducing certain solid foods to infants too early for fear that babies would be more likely to develop food allergies.
But recent research suggests that introducing foods early can actually reduce the incidence of allergic illnesses.
One Finnish study found that the lowest rates of atopic diseases like allergies, asthma, eczema, and hay fever were associated with:
- Introducing gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley, rye, and oats before babies were 5.5 months old
- Introducing fish before the age of 9 months
- Introducing eggs before 11 months
- Breastfeeding for at least 9.5 months
When introducing solid foods to babies, avoid giving them foods they could choke on. Start new foods one food at a time and wait at least 3 days before introducing another new food to make sure there is no reaction. Symptoms don't always show up right away and may take a couple of days to manifest.
Symptoms of food sensitivities may include sneezing, runny nose, skin rash or diaper rash, changes in stool, or irritability. If any of these occur, discontinue the new food and wait until the symptoms have cleared before you to introduce another new food.
Never introduce new foods when babies are ill, especially they have symptoms of colic, cramps, diarrhea, or rash.
Nwaru BI et al. 2013. Timing of infant feeding in relation to childhood asthma and allergic diseases. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 131(1):78-86. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2012.10.028.