Every parent has a number of magical parenting moments pre-programmed in his or her brain even before the baby is born. Watching your baby's first moves, having your first phone conversation, letting go of the two-wheel bicycle for the first time as your child rides away—all are common, wonderful parenting expectations. The first feeding is one of those seminal events most of us are counting on. Is the timing of that first feed important?
What's the Issue?
Most pediatricians think the answer is yes. Many babies have the oromotor (chewing and swallowing) skills to handle solid foods at three to four months of age, but development has little to do with the timing of solid food introduction these days.
What we know is that the introduction of simple solids at about six months of age reduces your baby's risk of developing food allergies later on in childhood. Too early raises the risk, too late and your child's risk is raised as well.
Consider the Numbers
- In 2007, the incidence of peanut allergy is about one out of every 100 school-aged children (about two million kids in the United States). This incidence has about doubled in the past decade. Why? There are brilliant physicians and scientists who have devoted their lives to studying this issue and even they don't understand why children have peanut allergies.
- The eight most common allergens which make up 90 percent of all childhood food allergies are: milk, egg, peanut, tree nut, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish. Since babies don't eat much in the way of solids, we see milk and soy allergy as the big problem in young infants.
- Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis (a severe, potentially fatal allergic reaction) can occur anywhere from within minutes of exposure to a food to two hours after exposure.
- Approximately five percent of the pediatric population under age three has a diagnosed food allergy.