At what age can babies eat eggs safely? While you may embrace baby-led weaning and want to share your family’s food with your baby, you should think twice before letting a baby eat eats too soon.
When Can I Give My Baby Scrambled Eggs?
Slow down and consider the facts first! Eggs are a staple in many kitchens because they’re affordable, versatile and nutritious. They’re perfect for breakfast but are also needed for many dishes, sweet and savory. What many parents don’t know is that eggs are also one of the most likely foods to cause allergic reactions in children. If you have a newborn or are preparing to welcome a new baby into your family, determining when you should allow the baby to taste eggs safely is an issue worth considering.
Why are Eggs a Big Deal?
Egg whites are similar to milk when it comes to proteins that can cause an allergic reaction. Many milk sensitivities and allergies are the result of proteins in the milk, namely whey and casein. Egg whites also contain proteins to which many people are allergic. Those proteins aren’t present in the yolk, so that part of the egg is less risky for babies.
It’s impossible to know if your child will have food allergies after birth. All parents need to remain on high alert when introducing any food other than breast milk to a newborn. In fact, breast milk can even trigger an allergic reaction if the mother consumes a food to which the baby is sensitive or allergic. While most babies never experience severe allergic reactions, it’s a possibly with foods like nuts, eggs and dairy.
When Can Babies Eat Eggs? The 12-Month Dilemma
For many years, it was believed that allergies to eggs were at least partially the result of parents feeding eggs to babies before their first birthday. Many foods that may cause allergic reactions are reserved for babies at least one-year old who are experimenting with solid foods. Many medical providers believed that eggs were better tolerated by children when parents waited to introduce them into the diet, even if the child started eating solid foods earlier.
In 2010, the results of a scientific study including more than 2,500 children challenged the 12-month rule. The study showed that the babies most likely to develop an allergy to eggs were introduced to eggs between four and six months of age. The babies introduced to eggs at one year or later were far less likely to develop an egg allergy. (Koplin, 2010)
What does that mean for your baby? There are still some general rules that you may use to determine when it’s safe to give your little one the first taste of an egg:
- If egg allergies or sensitivities are prevalent in your family, it’s more likely that your baby will also have a sensitivity or allergy. You should start with a small amount of egg and watch your baby closely when you allow him to taste egg for the first time. You may choose to wait until your baby is one year or older so that he is better able to tolerate a potential allergic reaction, especially if some members of your family have suffered severe allergic reactions to eggs.
- If your baby has a compromised immune system, they may be less able to recover from a severe food allergy. You should work closely with your child’s doctor when determining which foods to introduce at any age. Depending on your child’s overall health, you may decide to wait until he is more stable to introduce anything other than breast milk. After all, breast milk is the best nutritional boost you can give a child’s immune system.
- If your baby is exclusively breastfed, you won’t need to introduce egg into your baby’s diet until you introduce solid foods. It’s recommended that you continue to breastfeed exclusively for the first year, or the first six months at the very least. If you eat a lot of eggs while breastfeeding, your baby may be exposed to egg white proteins through your breast milk. That is a more diluted form of the proteins than your baby will receive when consuming egg whites directly.
- If you start introducing solid foods before your baby’s first birthday, you may start with egg yolks and wait to introduce egg whites. If there is no reason to believe your baby may suffer from an allergy or sensitivity to egg whites, you may introduce the whites between six months and one year of age. It’s still a good idea to start out with a small amount of egg whites and watch your baby closely for some of the more subtle signs of an egg allergy.
- If you don’t intend to introduce solid foods until after your baby’s first birthday, then simply introduce egg whites gradually and watch for signs of an allergic reaction.
In general, there’s no way to determine whether your baby will suffer from food allergies, and there are a variety of foods that can trigger a mild to severe reaction in people of all ages. Eggs are right up there with peanuts, shellfish and dairy when it comes to the most likely allergy-inducing offenders. The best rule you can apply is to introduce new foods one at a time, watching closely for even the mildest reactions.
Whether the 12-month milestone makes a difference in the development of food allergies or not is yet to be determined with certainty. There’s a possibility that introducing a new food earlier in life could allow the baby to handle the food better due to early exposure. There’s also the potential for babies to tolerate a new food better if they’re a bit older and their digestive tracts are more developed.
Of course, it’s also possible that age of introduction has nothing to do with the development of food allergies. Educating yourself about the possible symptoms of a food allergy is your best defense.
Egg Allergy Symptoms
If your baby doesn’t tolerate eggs well, you may notice some or all of the following symptoms after your baby consumes egg whites:
- Flushed skin
- Crying or fussing
- Runny nose
- Accelerated heartbeat
- Low blood pressure
While skin reactions to a food can occur anywhere on the body, many people with an egg allergy will itch or swell around the mouth. Your baby may show an immediate reaction to eggs, or it may take some time for the negative reaction to become obvious to the eye. Don’t assume that your baby has no allergic reaction if you don’t see an immediate response.
Food allergies can also mild symptoms that are ongoing. That happens when the child consumes the offensive food on a regular basis, triggering continuous reactions. If you notice that your baby starts to break out in unexplained bumps or has flushed, swollen, sensitive skin, you can assume a possibility of a food sensitivity or allergy.
What to Do If Your Baby Is Allergic to Eggs
If your baby develops signs of an allergic reaction after consuming eggs, your response depends on the severity of the reaction. Mild reactions may not need immediate medical attention, but you should definitely mention the reaction to your child’s doctor at the next checkup. One food allergy opens the door to other potential allergies, so your child may need tested for allergies and you will need to proceed with caution when introducing other new foods.
In the case of a more severe reaction, seek immediate medical attention. A hospital or urgent care can intervene to limit the risk to your baby. They can also give you more information about safely introducing other new foods into your baby’s diet. You should schedule an appointment with your child’s doctor as soon as possible to discuss the allergic reaction.
Living with an Egg Allergy
If your baby is allergic to eggs, you will need to read labels carefully when introducing prepared and pre-packaged foods. Many processed foods contain egg even if it isn’t an obvious or main ingredient. Eggs are also used in a variety of sweet treats that growing children love, including cookies and cakes.
Many children who are allergic to egg whites can still tolerate egg yolks. Whether you try the yolks alone after an allergic reaction will depend on the severity of your baby’s reaction. A severe or life-threatening reaction may lead you to keep eggs completely out of your baby’s diet for absolute safety.
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- Baby Led Weaning: Why Skip Baby Food
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