Conventional wisdom tells us that to prevent food allergies we
should wait to introduce solid foods to our babies until 6 months
and then gradually add new foods over time.
Researchers now believe the opposite may be true: waiting to
introduce babies to solid foods may actually increase the risk of
In a study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers from
Finland examined the dietary and allergic sensitization records of
almost 1,000 babies.
They found that late introduction of foods such as potatoes, oats,
meat and eggs were directly associated with being sensitive to food
allergens. Foods such as fish, meat and rye were
associated with inhalant allergens.
But the term "late" is relative here: the average introduction of
potatoes (in the form of cereal or porridge) was at 4 months. Wheat
was introduced at 6 months old on average, eggs at 10 months.
Currently, many pediatricians recommend mothers breastfeed or use
formula exclusively for the first six months and wait to introduce
Bright I. Nwaru, one of the researchers with the Tampere School of
Public Health in Finland, says, via e-mail, that the current
recommendations likely developed as a way to emphasize the health
benefits of breast milk.
Nwaru says his and other studies will likely encourage the medical
community to change recommendations about the timing and
introduction of solid food.
As more evidence is compiled, he says, the advice may be to
introduce foods as early as 4 months old and use as many different
foods as possible.
Lisa Applegate is a freelance writer and mom of one living in Chicago.
See more of Lisa's stories here.
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