Does Your Baby Have Food Allergies?

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Does Your Baby Have Food Allergies? What to Watch Out For

Being a new parent can be an exciting yet overwhelming experience. Parents bring home a little bundle of joy that is completely reliant upon them to provide love, shelter, nourishment, and protection. And while prepared to meet the challenge, parents must do so while learning their little one’s cues since he or she cannot yet communicate using language. It is a substantial responsibility that can be intensified by adding the development of food intolerances and allergies to the mix. Imagine feeding your child only to subsequently watch him or her experience discomfort and distress without any idea what might be wrong. Knowing the signs and symptoms of food intolerances and allergies can save you and your new baby weeks or months of unnecessary stress.

Food Intolerance or Food Allergy

Food intolerances are generally minor to moderate reactions to foods babies eat. Food intolerances usually occur when a food irritates the stomach and cannot be properly digested. A baby who has an intolerance to a certain food may experience gastrointestinal distress such as gas, diarrhea, constipation or vomiting. Food intolerances generally appear gradually and are not life threatening.

On the other hand, allergies are immune diseases. Allergic reactions can be minor, moderate, serious or life threatening. An allergic reaction occurs when an allergen is introduced to the body and the immune system mistakes the allergen as a harmful substance and attacks it. Allergens do not have to be eaten for a reaction to occur. Allergies can affect a baby’s entire body rather than just the stomach. A baby who has an allergy may experience symptoms like a rash, hives, nausea and vomiting, or shortness of breath. If a child experiences anaphylaxis, trouble swallowing, breathing or a sudden drop in blood pressure, call 911 immediately. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction.

Tummy Aches

Gastrointestinal issues are among the top concerns faced by new parents. Babies who experience frequent stomach problems after eating certain foods may have an intolerance or an allergy. Symptoms related to food intolerances generally appear over time after eating. Symptoms of food allergies generally occur immediately, though they can appear after several hours. Gastrointestinal discomfort may appear in the form of bloating, gas, stomach cramps, diarrhea, constipation, nausea or vomiting.

Skin Irritation

Eczema is a medical condition where patches of skin become dry, inflamed or irritated. About one-third of infants and babies with eczema have a food allergy; however, the food allergy only worsens the eczema, it is not the primary cause. Other types of skin irritations that often occur in babies with food allergies are rashes, itchy skin and hives, which cause swelling of the lips, eyes and tongue.

Breastfeeding and Formula

Breastfeeding provides a number of nutritional benefits to newborns and babies. In addition, breastfeeding may have implications regarding the later development of allergies in infants and children. Studies have linked breastfeeding with a decrease in occurrence of celiac disease and certain food allergies. Though studies are not conclusive, the World Allergy Organization (WAO) recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first four to six months to avoid introducing babies to gluten and allergens prematurely.

Breastfeeding is not always an option and so parents may turn to formula as an alternative. But, studies have shown a correlation between early introduction of formula to infants, and the development of celiac disease and certain food allergies. Most studies associate the timing of gluten introduction to babies with the development of celiac disease. If breastfeeding is not an option, try to choose formula that is gluten free.

Additionally, some formulas contain trace amounts of cow’s milk. If your baby has an allergy or intolerance to cow’s milk, choose a hypoallergenic formula to prevent reactions.

Starting Solids

Transitioning from breast-milk or formula to solid foods can be a source of anxiety for parents with babies who have food allergies or intolerances. Doctors generally recommend introducing babies to solid foods between four and six months of age, when babies’ digestive systems are prepared to handle digesting grains and cereals. Try to start by using foods that are less allergenic, like root vegetables. Since wheat tends to be the most allergenic grain, save it, along with eggs and products containing cow’s milk, until last.

If possible, try making homemade solid foods to control ingredients and prevent unintentional introduction of gluten or allergens. Baby food recipes are usually easy to make and contain only one or two items. Parents can make large batches of baby food to freeze in small portions to save time. Homemade baby food is also cheaper than purchasing prepared foods.

If possible, breastfeed your baby while introducing solids. Breastfeeding along with providing solid foods may add immune protections, which can aid the prevention of allergy development.

Seeking Medical Help

Do not attempt to self diagnose your baby. If you suspect your baby may have a food intolerance or allergy, seek medical attention. A qualified pediatrician can provide proper testing, diagnosis and treatment for your child.

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