You can introduce allergenic foods such as milk and eggs to babies—even those at risk for allergies—when they're as young as 4 to 6 months, according to recent guidelines from the . While the American Academy of Pediatrics has been recommending this practice since 2008, many parents and pediatricians are still following older guidelines that advised waiting to introduce these foods, according to NBC News.
There's been about an 18 percent increase in food allergy between 1997 and 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Older recommendations advised waiting until babies were a year old before introducing milk, 2 years old before eggs and 3 years old before peanut products and fish, but this hasn't been shown to prevent allergies. In 2008 the American Academy of Pediatrics began advising parents to introduce age-appropriate allergenic foods right after babies had started basic solids like single-grain cereals. Some research even suggests that introducing these foods may help ward off allergies. (Young kids and babies should never be given whole nuts or gobs of peanut butter, however, since these are choking hazards.)
Before you start your baby on solids, follow these tips from the AAP:
- Introduce single-ingredient foods like cereal, fruits and vegetables first.
- Give your baby one new food at a time and wait at least 2 to 3 days before introducing the next one.
- Once your child is ready for finger foods (she can sit up on her own and bring her hands or other objects to her mouth), you can serve tiny bits of solid foods like eggs, soft pasta or chicken or very thinly spread nut butters on toast.
- If you have concerns or your child experiences a reaction, call the doctor and keep in mind that many children outgrow food allergies, especially those to milk or eggs.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.