If your baby has eczema it can be really hard to know what to do about introducing them to solid food, knowing that eczema can be associated with food-related allergies and intolerances. Here are some useful tips for starting the process!
The official advice is that babies should be exclusively breastfed until about six months of age, at which point they can be given some solid food. The Department of Health advises that even foods that could cause allergic reactions can be introduced from around six months of age; they say that there’s no evidence to support parents need to delay introduction of these foods for longer than six months, as waiting until after a year can actually increase the risk of reaction.
How to introduce new foods:
- Start the weaning process (introducing new foods, not reducing milk feeds) at around six months of age, and not before four months.
- Look for signs that your baby is ready: a full-term healthy baby will start showing interest in food, grab at it and be able to bring food up to their own mouths at around six months.
- Continue breastfeeding beyond six months if possible; breastfeeding reduces the risk of developing allergies and eczema, and boosts the immune system.
- Make sure your child is well at the time of introduction; don’t give them a new food if they have a temperature, just had a vaccination, or have a cough or a cold.
- Introduce new solid foods one at a time, with a gap of 3 days in between each new food, so that it is easier to identify any food that causes a reaction.
- Mornings are better than evenings to introduce a new food, so you can check for any reactions through the day.
- Start with bland fruits and vegetables, pureed or mashed if necessary. Things like root vegetables, sweet potatoes, carrots, pears, apples, bananas, avocados are ideal.
- Move on eventually to grains, cereals, pulses, meat.
- Keep a food diary so you can track reactions and chart what was given when. Allergy UK has a great template you can use.
- Once you’re sure your little one has had a particular food several times without a reaction, you can start mixing it up with other foods you’ve tested, and serving different foods together on a plate.
- By the age of 12 months at the latest, your baby should have been introduced to all the major allergenic foods* (where appropriate).
- Once you’ve introduced the potentially allergenic foods* carefully and successfully, it’s advised that you keep on giving your baby the food regularly - twice a week, ideally - to make sure they stay tolerant.
- Some foods (particularly as citrus, tomatoes, strawberries) can irritate the skin or flare up baby’s face without actually being an allergic reaction; if your baby has sensitive or easily-flared skin, put a fine layer of Skin Salvation around their mouth before mealtime.
If your baby has eczema and you’re worried about them having a severe reaction to any of the high allergenic foods, do talk to your health visitor before weaning, and educate yourself about possible reactions to look at for. There’s an excellent resource from BSACI here.
*High allergenic foods: cow milk, eggs, wheat, gluten, soya, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, seeds.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT REACTIONS:
If your baby has mild to moderate anaphylaxis - hives, tummy pain, eczema flare-ups, vomiting etc., then stop feeding the food responsible and contact your health visitor or GP as soon as possible. You may want to ask for referral to a specialist paediatric allergy team.If your baby shows signs of severe anaphylaxis - swollen lips, difficulty breathing, losing consciousness - call 999 immediately.
If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.