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 allergies.
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 foods.
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.