Introducing allergen containing foods
A wide variety of food from each of the five food groups is important when introducing foods and research now states that this may actually reduce the risk of allergies developing.
The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) provide evidence-based guidance on how to introduce allergen containing foods to infants.
Key recommendations from ASCIA on infant feeding are:
- “When your infant is ready, at around six months, but not before four months, start to introduce a variety of solid foods, starting with iron rich foods, while continuing breastfeeding”. 1
- “All infants should be given allergenic solid foods including peanut butter, cooked egg, dairy and wheat products in the first year of life. This includes infants at high risk of allergy”. 1
Previous recommendations to delay or avoid allergenic foods to prevent allergy are no longer supported. 2
ASCIA’s position is supported by the Infant Feeding Guidelines statement that “delaying the introduction of solid foods, including allergenic foods, after the age of six months may increase the risk of developing allergic symptoms”. 2
However if you are concerned or there is a strong history of allergies in your family, talk to your health care professional before starting solids.
How about progressing through textures
You should start your baby on puree foods (which are smooth with no lumps). You can make puree foods yourself with a blender buy pureeing up a wide variety of foods from the food groups. If you are breastfeeding, you can use breastmilk as the liquid to help achieve a puree consistency.
As your baby tolerates puree foods, they can progress onto mashed/lumpy foods and then onto finger foods. Generally, your baby can have ‘family foods’ from around 12 months of age. Progressing through textures of foods with your baby is important in helping them ‘learn’ how to eat and use their tongue and muscles in their mouth.
How does the intake of a 7-12 month old look over a day?
Every baby is different and there will be daily fluctuations in what your baby will eat. Important things for you to remember are:
- Introduce different tastes, textures and consistency as child grows. Foods can be introduced in any order and at a rate that suits the child.
- Homemade is best - cooking first foods from fresh ingredients wherever possible, with no added sugar or salt. Using commercial frozen or canned foods is okay sometimes as long as they don’t have added sugars or salt.
The current infant feeding guidelines recommend the following as a guide for the amounts of food from the five food groups per day when baby is between 7-12 months of age.3 Please bear in mind that in the very early stages of introducing foods, it is about experimenting with flavours and textures, they may not actually consume a lot of the food you are offering, this will build up as you and your baby get used to first foods.
Note – this is a guide only which is based on the recommendations from the Infant Feeding Guidelines
||Serves a day
|Vegetables and legumes/beans
||20g (1 tbsp)
||1 ½ - 2
||20g (1 tbsp)
|Grain (cereal) foods
||40g bread equivalent (e.g. 4-6 tbsp cooked rice/pasta)
|Infant cereal (dried)
||20g (1 tbsp)
|Lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu
||30g (1 ½ tbsp)
|Breast milk or formula
Breastmilk – continue for as long as mother and baby wish, amount varies depending on mum & baby
|600 mls/day of formula
|Yoghurt/cheese or alternatives
||20 mls yoghurt or 10g cheese
¬ *20g is equivalent to 1 tablespoon and 5g is equivalent to 1 teaspoon.
I’ve heard about baby-led weaning – what is this and is this something I should do?
The practice of baby-led weaning (BLW) for first foods (solids) is becoming increasingly common. As this involves not using purees for first foods for babies it is a little ‘left-field’ compared to the Australian Infant Feeding Guidelines. If you are considering or are using strategies from baby led weaning, it’s important to ensure it is done safely and appropriately to provide the best outcomes for your baby.
Both the Infant Feeding Guidelines and BLW practices encourage continued exposure and opportunity to sample a wide variety of healthy foods to help achieve adequate nutrient intakes and healthy diets in childhood. Establishing these healthy eating habits are likely to continue through to adulthood and may assist in promoting better food choices later in life.
|7-12 months old
||early stages of introduction
||4 tsp dry infant rice cereal, prepared as per instructions, &
1 tsp pureed peaches
|1 ½ breakfast wheat biscuits or ¼ cup dried oats made into porridge, with breast milk or formula or full cream milk
||2 tsp (heaped) plain unsweetened yoghurt with 1 tsp pureed pear / apple
||4 tsp dry infant rice cereal, prepared as per instructions, with 2 tsp mashed banana
3 tsp pureed meat &
2-3 tsp pureed vegetables (e.g. carrot and/or pumpkin) &
4 tsp pureed cooked rice
|3 tsp pureed or finely chopped meat, tofu or fish & 2-3 tsp mashed pumpkin & peas
2 tsp plain unsweetened yoghurt
||2 tsp pureed vegetables (e.g. peas, green beans &/or pumpkin) with ½ slice toast (or equivalent) as finger food
||½ slice toasted wholemeal bread with 2 tsp mashed avocado
||3 tsp pureed meat or beans/legumes with 2-3 tsp mashed vegetables (e.g. pumpkin, sweet potato, carrot) & 4 tsp pureed cooked rice
||3 tsp beef mince cooked in
2-3 tsp tomato based sauce (made with tomato, onions, pureed carrots and broccoli)
What might be potential benefits and risks from BLW?
When you compare the current Guidelines against common BLW practices it identifies that there is a lot of common ground (e.g. ensuring baby is showing signs of readiness; avoiding hard foods that are choking risks) but there are a few points of difference (e.g. not particularly encouraging iron-rich foods first).
Studies have generally shown that healthcare professionals do acknowledge there could be benefits of BLW, with some research showing babies may more effectively develop self-regulation of their appetite and energy intake, leading to a decreased risk of becoming overweight, but there are concerns about the potential increased risk of choking, iron deficiency, and inadequate energy intake.
More research is necessary to fully understand the potential benefits and risks of BLW. If you are considering BLW, please consider the information outlines above on the importance of progressing through textures and offering a wide variety of foods. If you need further advice, please discuss with an accredited practicing dietitian or your local health professional.