Is my baby at increased risk for food allergies?
Allergies tend to be genetic. A baby is at increased risk of food allergies if a doctor has ever diagnosed one or more parents, brothers or sisters with a food allergy or allergic condition such as eczema, asthma or hay fever.
Discuss your family history with your doctor to find out if your baby is at increased risk.
How can I help prevent food allergies if my baby is at increased risk?
You do not need to avoid foods while you are pregnant to prevent food allergies in your baby. Eat a healthy diet that includes a variety of foods from Canada’s Food Guide to help your baby grow and be healthy.
Exclusive breastfeeding for 4 to 6 months might help prevent food allergies in babies who are at increased risk.
Health Canada recommends exclusive breastfeeding for all healthy term babies until 6 months of age. Babies should be introduced to iron-rich solid foods at 6 months of age with continued breastfeeding for up to 2 years and beyond.
Should I avoid certain foods while breastfeeding?
You do not need to avoid specific foods while you breastfeed to prevent food allergies in your baby. Current research has not shown that avoiding specific foods while breastfeeding helps prevent food allergies in babies. However, if your baby is already known to have a food allergy and you are breastfeeding, removing that food from your diet may help. Speak to your doctor.
What foods should I offer first?
Start with foods that are good sources of iron, such as iron-fortified infant cereals and cooked, pureed meat, fish or poultry. Add new foods one at a time. If your baby tolerates a new food, continue to offer it. Wait a few days before adding each new food.
Continue to introduce other new foods such as vegetables and fruits. At 1 year, your baby should be eating a variety of foods.
There is no reason to avoid or delay the introduction of potentially allergenic foods, such as fish and eggs, for the prevention of allergies, either in infants considered at increased risk for the development of allergy or in those not considered to be at increased risk.
Breastfeeding is considered to be the best option for primary prevention of allergies. If exclusive breastfeeding is not possible, a hypoallergenic, extensively hydrolyzed formula (such as Nutramigen® A+® with LGG®) is thought to be the most effective for allergy prevention in babies at risk.
Partially hydrolyzed formulas may not be as effective as extensively hydrolyzed formulas for allergy prevention in babies at risk.
It is not recommended to use a soy-based infant formula for the prevention of food allergies.
Smoking or being around second hand smoke while you are pregnant increases your baby’s risk of asthma and allergies. Exposing your baby to second hand smoke after birth also increases risk. Stop smoking and make your home smoke free during pregnancy and after.
If your baby has a cow's milk protein allergy, talk to your baby's doctor about Nutramigen® A+® with LGG®, clinically shown to be effective in the dietary management of infants with cow’s milk protein allergy including colicky† infants.
*ESPGHAN: European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition Agostoni C et al. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2008;46(1):99-110. †due to cow’s milk protein allergy