If your baby already has a diagnosed food allergy or eczema, or if you have a family history of food allergies, eczema, asthma or hay fever, you may need to be particularly careful when introducing foods, so talk to your GP or health visitor first.
Introducing foods that could trigger an allergy:
When you start introducing solid foods to your baby from around 6 months, introduce the foods that can trigger allergic reactions one at a time and in very small amounts so that you can spot any reaction.
These foods are can be introduced from around 6 months as part of your baby’s diet, just like any other foods:
Once introduced and if tolerated, keep offering those foods as part of your baby’s usual diet (to minimise the risk of allergy). Evidence has shown that delaying introducing peanuts and hen’s eggs after 6-12 months may increase the risk of developing an allergy to these foods.
If your child has a food allergy, read food labels carefully. Avoid foods if you are not sure whether they contain the food your child is allergic to.
Signs of a food allergy (can include one or more of the following reactions):
In a few cases, foods can cause a severe allergic food reaction (anaphylaxis), which can be life-threatening. Call 999 and get medical help immediately.
Don't be tempted to experiment by cutting out a major food, such as milk, as this could lead to your child not getting the nutrients they need. Talk to your health visitor or GP, who may refer you to a registered dietitian.
For more information on allergic reactions, have a look at the NHS website.
Your baby may gag when you introduce solid foods. This is because they’re learning to regulate the amount of food they can chew and swallow at one time. If your baby is gagging, this is what may happen:
Choking can happen with hard foods, bones and small round foods that can easily get stuck in the throat. Remember, you should:
Make sure your little one is sitting up properly in their high chair, and never leave them while they’re eating.
If you think your child is choking and cannot breathe properly:
This will hopefully dislodge the object. Learn how to deal with choking here - or even better, do a first aid course.
It’s important to know which foods are safe for your little one. Here’s a list of which ones to avoid and why:
Your little one’s immune system isn’t as strong and developed as yours – which means they’re more vulnerable to infections and bugs (which can lead to food poisoning). So, it’s important to take extra care with hygiene and preparing food safely.
Give your hands a good wash before preparing food (and straight after if you’re touching raw meat and fish). Also make sure your baby’s hands are clean too – especially if they’re feeding themselves with finger foods
Wash all surfaces for preparing or eating food, especially chopping boards, with hot soapy water (and keep pets away from them). Also make sure all bowls and spoons are washed with hot soapy water.
Your tea-towels, kitchen cloths or sponges can harbour lots of germs, so wash them regularly.
To avoid food waste, decant the amount of food you think your baby will eat – you can always offer more if they’re still hungry. Throw away any half-eaten portions – never save it.
You should also:
Make sure any food you cook is piping hot, then let it cool down before serving. Remember to stay with your baby while they’re eating, so you can be sure they are swallowing safely.
If your baby is less than 6 months old, sterilise water by boiling it first and then letting it cool right down. Once your baby is 6 months old, you don’t need to do this anymore.
If you’re batch cooking, cool the food down (ideally within one to two hours) and then freeze or refrigerate. If you’re keeping it in the fridge – use it within 2 days. With rice, make sure it cools within an hour and then goes straight in the fridge or freezer. Rice kept in the fridge should be eaten within 24 hours – never reheat it more than once.
Defrost frozen food thoroughly before reheating. The safest way to do this is in the fridge overnight, or by defrosting it in the microwave (using the defrost setting).
When reheating food, make sure it’s steaming hot all the way through, then let it cool before giving it to your baby. If you’re using a microwave, give it a good stir to get rid of any hot air pockets – always check the temperature before feeding your baby. Any cooked food should only be reheated once.
If you need to cool food down quickly, put it in an airtight container and run cold water over it. Keep stirring so it cools throughout.