Look for the symptoms
Symptoms of a food allergy are due to the body’s immune system trying to tackle the food. They can include diarrhea, breathing difficulties, swelling and rashes. These symptoms may occur right away, or several hours after eating.
In very rare and serious cases, food allergies can lead to anaphylaxis, which can cause swelling of the throat and mouth and can be life-threatening. If you suspect anaphylaxis, contact an emergency center immediately.
Is your baby at risk?
Most babies and toddlers can eat a varied diet without any problems. But, your baby is more likely to have a food allergy if either parent or their siblings have a history of food allergies, or suffer from eczema, asthma or hay fever. Your health care provider will be able to guide you if your family has a history of food allergies.
What’s likely to cause an allergy?
There are certain common foods likely to cause allergies – these include milk, eggs, wheat, nuts, sesame seeds, soy, mustard, fish, and shellfish. If there is an allergy concern, avoid giving these foods until 6 months, and then introduce them one at a time so you can monitor your baby's reaction. Whole nuts should be avoided until your child is four years old because of the risk of choking.
Avoid possible peanut allergies
If your baby’s close family have eczema, asthma, hay fever of any other food allergy, it might be an idea to avoid peanuts when you’re breast feeding. It’s also wise to wait until your little one is at least 6 months old, before giving them any foods that may contain peanuts. Make sure you check packets for any traces of peanut.
Always check labels
If a product contains one of the common allergens, it will be clearly labelled in the ingredients list by its common name. Make sure you check!
The top 10 common food allergies:
- Seafood (fish, crustaceans, shellfish)
- Tree nuts
What kind of cup should my baby use?
An open cup or a free-flow cup without a valve will help your baby learn to sip and is better for your baby's teeth. You can drink from a cup like theirs to show them how. Some cups also have a transition spout like a teat to help your little one get used to sipping.
Just like grown-ups, babies use all their senses when they eat – and lots of things can attract or put them off different foods. It can take more than 10 tries with a new food before your baby will accept it. They can often change their mind so try not to give up!
Babies might reject something they have enjoyed before if the texture or taste is a bit different – so if they don’t want any more, stop and try again another time.
Introducing lumps early has been shown to lead to fewer feeding problems later on. Try soft lumps from around 6 months – if your baby struggles, try starting off by adding just one lump the size of a dime to the food they were enjoying before. As they get used to the new texture you can slowly increase the number of soft lumps within the meal.
Try to eat together as a family when you can. If everyone eats similar food, your baby will enjoy copying you – and you can offer appropriate finger foods from your plate for them to taste.
Just like adults, babies have off-days. And sometimes, babies can pick up on how you’re feeling, for example if feeding isn’t going well and you’re getting anxious. If so, it’s best to give both of you a break and try again at the next meal.
How can I encourage good eating habits?
As well as offering a wide variety of foods in different colours, give them appropriate finger foods at mealtimes so they can see what foods look like.
Because all your baby’s senses come into play when they eat, messy eating is great! Allow your baby to get involved by giving them a spoon to help. It might go all over the place but it will help them learn new skills, too.
My baby was eating everything and has suddenly stopped – what should I do?
It’s really common for babies and young toddlers to suddenly start rejecting food they have previously really loved. This is normal so try not to worry! Here are some tips to help steer them through.
• Try to avoid tummy-filling drinks before meals, especially calorie-laden ones with added sugar like fruit juice. Carbonated drinks generally aren’t recommended
• Learn to tell when your toddler or baby has had enough. Turning their head away, refusing to open their mouth, crying and pushing the bowl or spoon away can all be signs
• Keep mealtimes relaxed and try not to let them drag on for longer than 15-20 minutes
• Offer small portions with lots of different tastes, textures and colours
• Don’t try to pressure or bribe your toddler, especially by promising other foods. This can give the idea that some foods are rewards and better than others
• If a meal isn’t going well, don’t be scared to end it and try again next time. They might have a few fussy days in a row, but there’s no need to worry as long as they’re generally doing well
There’s a lot to think about. Some things are obvious. Some are not. Here are our top tips to help you on your way and end your journey with a smile.
Milk on the move
It’s always a good idea to carry your baby’s usual milk in an insulated bottle bag with an ice pack – it’ll stay cool and fresh. But remember, don’t put warm, prepared foods in the carrier. They could warm the milk up and might upset your little one’s tummy – not good if you’re travelling!
If you use formula milk, pack empty, sterilized bottles. And ready-to-use cartons are always a handy option.
Keep your little one calm in the car
There’s nothing worse than an upset baby when you’re trying to drive, so it pays to do all you can to keep things calm. Always use a properly secured safety seat. If you need to see to your little one, pull over somewhere safe first. Naturally, if you’re going on a long journey, it makes sense to pack enough food and milk for your little one. To find out more about the law and kids in cars, visit Transport Canada.
Peace on the plane
Airports can be unpredictable places. So it makes sense to pack extra food, clothes and diapers, just in case of delays. Also, take-off and landing can upset little ears so time these with a feed to help them get comfortable. Pack individual bags with wipes and diapers to make changing on the go easier.
Restrictions on liquids can make getting through security tricky so always check with your airline or Canada Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA).
Relax in the restaurant
When eating out, it may be a good idea to call and check if the restaurant has high chairs. A good tip is to always have a booster seat with you. Most places will be happy to heat up your baby’s food – just check the temperature before feeding.
• Finger foods, pouches or jars of baby food
• Bottles/cup and formula milk for bottle feeding
• Weaning spoons and bowls
• Bibs and baby wipes
• Diapers, diaper bags and changing mat
• A change of clothes
• Antibacterial wipes for cleaning surfaces
• Antibacterial hand gel for you