Do you know the difference?
Weaning a baby with a family history of allergies
If allergies run in your family, it makes sense to take a bit of extra care during weaning.
Like it or not, allergies are a fact of life: around 1 in 4 people are affected by some form of allergy, and about half of those are children. An allergy is different to an intolerance, although the symptoms can be similar. (For more information on this, see our page on the difference between allergies and intolerances.)
Some allergies (including food allergies) have a genetic link. This means that the tendency to have an allergy can be passed down from parent to child. If anyone in your immediate family has an allergic condition such as asthma, eczema, hayfever or food allergies, your baby is more likely to have an allergy, too.
Of course, allergies aren't the end of the world, and your baby may very well not develop any at all - but if there is a history of allergy in the family, it makes sense to take a bit of extra care during weaning.
No matter what your family history looks like, the advice in the early days is the same: your best bet is to give your baby only breastmilk for the first six months, and start weaning no earlier than 17 weeks, as recommended by the Department of Health.
In addition to being a fabulous source of nutrients, breastfeeding gives your baby some extra protection: when you breastfeed, you're passing along some of your own immunity as well as other important compounds which help your baby develop a healthy immune system and may help keep allergies from developing.
When you do start weaning, if you're concerned about possible allergies it's best to avoid foods which have a high allergy risk (such as egg, wheat, mustard, sesame, celery, fish and shellfish) until at least six months of age, preferably after consulting with your GP. (However, it's important not to delay all weaning, because after six months your baby needs more nutrients than milk can provide on its own.)
Good ‘first foods’ include potatoes, starchy vegetables, rice and soft fruits, as these all have a low risk of triggering an allergy. Have a look at our HiPP Organic stage 1 foods for some great low-allergy choices.
Another good tip (especially once you start to introduce some of the high allergy risk foods) is to introduce each new food on its own, and only add a new food every other day so that you can watch carefully for any signs of an allergy. This way, if you see any symptoms, you can be fairly sure which food is the culprit. Once you're sure a food is safe, you can start mixing different foods together.
If you think your child has an allergy
Weaning a potentially allergic baby might be a bit nerve-wracking at times, but having the right information on hand should help you feel confident about your ability to spot a food allergy. If you suspect your child is allergic to a certain food, make a note of any symptoms and speak to your GP before you offer that food again.