If you’re wondering when to feed your baby eggs, it may be earlier and more often than you think. Recent research shows that introducing whole eggs early can actually help to lower your baby’s chance of developing an egg allergy.1 This is one of the reasons the latest infant feeding guidelines from Health Canada, the Canadian Pediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada and the Breastfeeding Committee for Canada now recommend introducing whole eggs starting at about six months of age, or as soon as your baby starts eating solid foods.2
The new guidance on eggs is a departure from past recommendations. Until recently, parents were advised to delay feeding egg whites until their baby was twelve months; however, experts no longer recommend delaying the introduction of any common allergens. In fact, there is now evidence that the early introduction of foods such as egg whites can help prevent an allergy.
A review of the science recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (October 19, 2015) concludes parents should feed their babies potentially allergenic foods early to help avoid allergies.1 The review refers to prior advice, which recommended delaying the introduction of allergens in order to reduce allergies. However, when this advice was followed, researchers observed allergies increasing in some areas, rather than decreasing. In fact, based on studies, this review concluded that introducing foods later does not help prevent allergies, and that earlier introduction of common allergens is actually protective.
For example, a study involving over 2,500 infants found that the early introduction of cooked egg (at four to six months of age) reduced the risk of egg allergy compared to later introduction (at 10 to 12 months or later).3 Researchers suggested that changes in infant feeding guidelines could have a significant effect on childhood egg allergy and possibly food allergies in general.
The 2015 review emphasizes that it is also important for your baby to continue to eat foods such as whole eggs on a regular basis once the foods have been introduced. The new recommendations apply even to infants who have one or more immediate family members with allergic disease. As always, it is best to talk to your doctor if you have any family history of or concerns related to food allergies.
The new Canadian infant feeding guidelines also recommend the early introduction of eggs as a natural source of iron.2 Starting at about six months, babies need to eat iron-rich foods two to three times a day to support healthy brain development. With 14 essential nutrients, including iron and high-quality protein, you can feel good about feeding your baby eggs early and often.
Learn a few simple ways to prepare eggs for your baby. See Health Canada’s feeding tips and menu ideas for your baby’s first 2 years.
¹ Abrams EM and Becker AB. Food introduction and allergy prevention in infants. Canadian Medical Association Journal. E-pub ahead of print October 19, 2015.
² Canada, Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, and Breastfeeding Committee for Canada. Nutrition for Healthy Term Infants: Recommendations from Six to 24 Months, 2014. Available at: http://www.hc- sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/infant-nourisson/recom/recom-6-24-months-6-24-mois-eng.php
³ Koplin JJ et al. Can early introduction of egg prevent egg allergy in infants? A population-based study. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2010; 126:807-13.