Food Allergens for Infants - A Rough Guide

Amongst children aged up to two, the incidence of proven food allergies is only 5% and such reactions are generally mild.We previously looked at the types of food for parents to avoid giving infants and now follow up with a separate post about foods that are most likely to cause allergic reactions in the very young.

Some reactions towards food are also not true allergies, in the scientific sense. For those that are, it’s important to stress that severe allergic reactions (a.k.a. ‘Anaphylaxis’) in infants under one are rare. However such severe reactions should always be treated as a medical emergency. Even amongst children aged up to two, though, the incidence of proven food allergies is only 5% and such reactions are generally mild. Nonetheless, parents, carers and guardians of infants will naturally want to be cautious. Today’s post discusses the food types that most commonly cause allergic reactions and how they can be introduced to infants.

Severe allergic reactions (Anaphylaxis) in infants under one are rare, however such reactions should be treated as a medical emergency.

Symptoms to Look Out For

So, what are the symptoms of an allergic reaction? The NHS lists symptoms like sneezing, wheezing, coughing and a blocked or runny nose as possible signs of an allergic reaction. Itchy, red, watery eyes or a red, itchy rash are also possible signs, as are worsening symptoms of eczema or asthma.

The Most Common Food Allergens

According to the NHS, the 8 food types that are most likely to cause allergic reactions are:

Cows’ milkEggs
Gluten (found in wheat, barley, rye, oats etc.)Nuts including peanuts*
Seeds & seed derivatives*Soya
Shellfish*Fish

* We touched upon some of these ingredients in our A-Z Guide to Foods to Avoid Giving Infants but will mention the following again: seeds and nuts, including peanuts, should only be served to under-fives crushed, ground or as a ‘butter’ as they are otherwise a choking hazard; eggs should be avoided before the age of 6 months and thereafter never be served raw/lightly cooked except if they exhibit the Red Lion or “British Lion Quality” stamp; shellfish should also never be served to infants raw or lightly cooked.

Always read food labels carefully.

Eggs are one of the 8 food types that are most likely to cause allergic reactions, according to the NHS.Mustard, celery, the preservative/antioxidant sulphur dioxide, the legume lupin and molluscs are the next most common food allergens after those listed in the table above. Kiwi, the fruit, is also known to cause allergic reactions in some infants, however is apparently the only potential allergen out of those listed above that doesn’t have to be listed, by law, on the ingredients list of pre-packaged food products.

When to Start Watching Out for Allergens

The NHS recommends slowly introducing the food types above, usually from about the age of 6 months if they’re developmentally ready. This is the age when babies most commonly start the process of weaning i.e. moving – gradually – towards eating solids. Start only when the infant is well, including having a good skin condition, because eczema is a possible sign of an existing allergy. The NHS strongly recommends that you talk to a GP or health visitor before introducing new foods to infants who are already known to have an allergy diagnosis or family history of allergies, including eczema, asthma and hay fever.

Any ‘new’ food types, particularly known allergens from the list above, should be introduced to the infant only one at a time, preferably early in the day so that you have more time to monitor for any reactions. Accepted advice is to start only with a tiny initial amount and monitor for possible symptoms of an allergic reaction. When the introduction of peanuts was delayed to a later time in the child's development, the risk of developing an allergic reaction to them increased.Amounts can later be increased, bit by bit over the following days, if the infant is found to be tolerant. And, of course, a new food type can then be tried only once the previous one has ‘passed the test’. However, bear in mind that some allergic reactions are far from immediate. Known as non-IgE food allergies, their symptoms can take anywhere from 2 hours to 3 days to show. So, the message is to be very careful and methodical when it comes to introducing new foods to your infant.1

1: More detail about IgE (rapid) and non-IgE (delayed) allergy symptoms and other useful information about the introduction of potential allergens to infants can be read in a very good article by baby and child nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed.

Once introduced and shown to be tolerated by the infant, the new foods should then remain a part of the child’s usual diet and be eaten regularly. This minimises the chances of the child developing an allergy to such food types later on. Interestingly, where the introduction of peanuts and hens’ eggs has been delayed to a later time in the child’s development, the risk of developing an allergic reaction to them has actually increased. So, the risks need to be carefully balanced.

Special Mention: Milk Conundrums

The NHS recommends “exclusive breastfeeding or First Infant Formula” milk for babies during their first six monthsThe NHS recommends “exclusive breastfeeding or First Infant Formula” milk for babies during their first six months (and, indeed, breastfeeding has many benefits). Breastfeeding is not always possible though, for one reason or another, which is where the mention of First Infant Formula comes in. However, with standard First Infant Formula Milk being based on cows’ milk, and cows’ milk being one of the food types that infants are most commonly allergic or intolerant to, a healthcare professional will need to be consulted in the event of a reaction. For those found to have Cows’ Milk Allergy (‘CMA’), alternatives like Hypoallergenic Formula Milk, Lactose-Free Formula Milk or even Soya Formula Milk may be suggested by the GP/healthcare professional. However, it’s important for such milk alternatives to be given only under professional medical supervision as there are important and specific considerations around each. We’ll explain more about those in a separate post in due course, where we’ll outline the different types of milk and formula for babies and infants. Watch this space for more details soon.

Another milk-related conundrum that nursing mothers may have is whether they should avoid potential allergens themselves in case it passes to the infant through breast milk. The NHS’s advice in this regard is succinct and straight forward:

“If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you do not need to avoid foods that can trigger allergic reactions (including peanuts), unless you’re allergic to them.” (NHS)

Please note: We hope guide is a useful starting point for parents/guardians who want to learn more about safely introducing little ones to new food types. However, it is a guide only and you should do your own research. Talk to your GP, health visitor or other healthcare professional if you need professional advice or guidance in regard to your child’s diet and any allergy- or health-related issues. Always check food labels and contact the emergency services urgently if your child exhibits signs of a severe allergic reaction.

Healthy Food at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham

Healthy snacks are included in the fees at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery in Edgbaston/Birmingham.Meals at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery are freshly made, using high quality, nutritious ingredients, which are prepared for us by award-winning early years caterers. Healthy snacks, meals and drinks are all included in our nursery fees, as appropriate. We cater for all dietary needs (e.g. vegan, vegetarian etc.) and, of course, are mindful — and hugely careful — about any allergies amongst the little ones. We also participate in the ‘Startwell’ programme, which encourages our children and families in the Birmingham area to eat healthy meals and to live healthy lifestyles.

Searching for the best nurseries or pre-schools in Edgbaston, Birmingham, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick?

Leaps & Bounds nursery & pre-school is in Edgbaston, Birmingham B16, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

Please get in touch if you would like to visit Leaps & Bounds or to enrol your baby, toddler or under-five child at this excellent childcare setting. We are a high quality nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham but are equally convenient for those who live or work in Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood and Smethwick. Why not bring your child along to see the nursery in action and to ask us any questions that you may have. You can also apply for a place if you’re ready to make a decision about your childcare. Please choose a button below to get started:

Next Time

Today’s article focuses on food that may cause allergic reactions in infants. We subsequently follow up with a great guide to Seasonal Allergies in Under-Fives. Instead of being caused by food, seasonal allergies are caused by such things as pollen, dust, mould and pet dander at certain times of the year. Click the green link above to learn about symptoms, causes and ways to help children affected by such allergies.

Tummy Time for Babies — & Why it's Important

The idea of tummy time is to help babies strengthen their neck, core, back, shoulder and arm muscles and to improve coordination and motor skills.‘Tummy Time’ is very important for babies and today we take a look at why that is, and what exactly tummy time entails. The NHS defines tummy time as follows:

“Tummy time is time your baby spends on their tummy when they are awake.” (NHS)

The idea behind the activity is a simple but crucial one: to help babies strengthen their neck, core, back, shoulder and arm muscles as well as improving coordination and motor skills. These are important for newborn babies because they have comparatively heavy heads for their size, not much physical strength and poor coordination and motor skills when they’re first born. Tummy time allows them to improve in all these areas. After regular tummy time, they should become more able physically, they’ll gradually become more mobile and, crucially, will be better able to keep themselves safe. You could even argue that tummy time is a survival thing at its core.

Tummy Time Benefits

Tummy time benefits babies in many ways, including:

Tummy time strengthens neck, core, trunk, back, shoulder and arm muscles, helping babies to be more able physically.
It improves physical coordination as well as hand-eye coordination as they learn to reach for toys etc.
It improves a wide variety of motor skills, both fine and gross, helping babies better function as individuals.
It helps babies to alter their head position and movements at will, so they’re better able to control what/who they can see, what they can gain access to and what/who they interact with.
It helps babies to make sense of stimuli around them, for example to be able to turn their head or position in order to see what made a particular sound nearby.
Tummy time also helps babies avoid skull deformations such as Positional Plagiocephaly (a.k.a. Flat Head Syndrome) that might otherwise occur if they’re permanently on their backs.
Tummy time helps babies avoid Positional Torticollis, a neck issue that also might otherwise occur if the baby is always on its back.

Tummy Time – What to Do

Start off by lying your baby on your chest, facing you.So, we’ve seen the benefits and importance of tummy time, but what exactly does it entail? Well, the wide-awake baby is turned onto its stomach (this is also known as the ‘prone’ position) and is encouraged to raise its head, arms, etc. This must be under constant, unbroken supervision, for the child’s safety. Tummy time should commence right from birth, according to the NHS (). Newborns are initially very weak and therefore may not initially warm to tummy time, so a few things may help to make the introduction more bearable for them:

  • Start off by lying them on your chest, facing you.
  • Placing a rolled-up towel or blanket under their upper chest and arms will help to support and raise their trunks a little.
  • Encouragement will also help. For example, by turning the activity into a game like peek-a-boo, perhaps lying down, facing the baby.
  • You can also try it with the baby lying across your lap rather than on the floor, so you can better help them.
  • Another option is to cradle them with your hand/upper arm supporting them underneath.Another option is to cradle them with your hand/upper arm supporting them underneath.
  • When they’re a little older, lying the baby on a rug or blanket on the floor will be more comfortable for them than a hard floor directly. Not too soft/deep, though, due to the dangers of suffocation when they’re face down.
  • Ensure their head is supported when needed as their necks are very fragile at such a young age.
  • And, of course, ensure that they can always breathe freely at all times.

The UK Chief Medical Officers’ Physical Activity Guidelines () recommend “at least 30 minutes of tummy time spread throughout the day while awake … more is better … [it] can be increased gradually, starting from a minute or two at a time, as the baby becomes used to it.”

It’s important for parents to encourage the infant and to persevere. Start off for very short periods of time when they’re first born, but repeat it several times throughout the day. Remember, it will be very hard for them initially. As they get stronger and more used to it — and a little older — gradually increase the time spent doing tummy time. Nearby toys may help to encourage babies to make an extra effort during tummy time.Nearby toys may also help to encourage them to make an extra effort by the time they’re around 3 months old. Then, once they’re around 6 months of age, they should be much stronger in the arms and trunk and able to achieve the press-up position naturally. Before you know it, regular tummy time practise will result in them becoming more able to independently move around, grab toys, roll sideways and back, lift themselves up on their arms, lift and turn their head and so on. Coordination, strength, motor skills and hand-eye coordination will all improve. By the age of 7 to 9 months, you may find they can crawl and, around 9 months, they may well also be able to achieve a sitting position unaided. Around this point, your tummy time job is complete and there’s no huge need to continue — although it’ll do no harm if you do.

Safety Rules for Tummy Time

  • Only allow your baby to do tummy time when he/she is wide awake and alert;
  • Only allow your baby to do tummy time when you are wide awake, unlikely to fall asleep and are able to supervise the baby throughout the whole activity.

Those precautions are critically important for the baby’s wellbeing. Babies should never be allowed to sleep face down or even on their sides, otherwise there is a real risk of suffocation and even death. That’s why both baby and adult need to be fully awake, fully alert and the supervising adult watching at all times during the tummy time activity.

Tummy Time at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham

Tummy time is part and parcel of nurturing children to reach personal bests in every area and to thrive as individuals.We do, of course, follow guidelines and best practise for safe tummy time at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham. It’s all a natural, integral part of what we do as part of our weekday childcare services for babies. It’s also part and parcel of nurturing children under our care to reach personal bests in every area and to thrive as individuals.

High Quality Childcare in Edgbaston, Birmingham, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

Leaps & Bounds nursery & pre-school is in Edgbaston, Birmingham B16, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

Leaps & Bounds offers the highest quality childcare at it’s Edgbaston nursery and pre-school near Birmingham. We’re also conveniently located for those looking for the best nursery or pre-school service near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick, each of which is just a stone’s throw away. To enquire about a nursery/pre-school place for your child, or to ask any questions, please get in touch. We also invite you to book a tour with your child to see the childcare setting in action for yourself. Please choose an option to get started: