Most parents who come to my introducing solid foods workshops have food allergies on their mind. They’ve heard about food allergies being on the rise amongst children and they want to know how to avoid allergies as they prepare to start feeding their babies their first foods.
A Google search or browse through parenting books only adds to parents’ concern because there’s so much conflicting information. The reason for the conflicting information is that the medical and scientific communities’ understanding of food allergies has changed a lot in the past 10 years. So you’ll find out-of-date information, up-to-date information, theories that are currently being investigated (but not yet proven), and alternative health systems’ understandings of food allergy.
A common question that I’m asked is from Moms and Dads who themselves have a food allergy, wondering if their child will be allergic that that same food too.
With the current scientific evidence available, all I can tell them is “not necessarily.”
Let me explain.
The current evidence supports that there is a genetic link for food allergy. If one parent has an allergy, there is an increased chance that a child will have an allergy. And, if both parents have allergies, then a child has a greater chance of having an allergy than a child who has one parent with an allergy. And I’m not just talking about food allergies here, any allergy counts for parents – such as hayfever and allergies to pets.
But here’s an important finding: a child isn’t at a greater risk for having an allergy to the same thing as their parent(s). They’re at a greater risk of having an allergy to something. Currently we don’t see clear patterns between the food (or other substance) that a parent is allergic to and what food a child will have an allergic reaction to.
So, to answer the question in the title of this post, the child of the parent who has an allergy to strawberries is at increased risk to have a reaction to a food, but it’s no more likely to be strawberries than any other food.
Which leaves the question of what to do when introducing solid foods to your baby when you (and/or your baby’s other biological parent) have allergies. The answer is to proceed the same way as parents who don’t have allergies:
- Introduce foods one at a time.
- Wait 48 – 72 hours between each food.
- Watch for any signs or symptoms of a reaction to a food.
- If you suspect a reaction, don’t offer that food again. Talk with your primary healthcare provider to develop an action plan for when to re-introduce the food.
Don’t be afraid to introduce your child to a food to which you have a reaction. Unless, of course, having that food anywhere near you will cause you to have a reaction – it’s not worth putting your own health at risk.
Do you have a question that you’d like me to answer here? Email me at Kristen@KristenYarker.com and mention “Love Child Blog” in the subject line.
Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD
Helping Moms and Dads support their picky eaters to try new foods on their own (without being forceful or sneaky)