Canada has issued new guidelines to help parents, caregivers and health professionals provide infants with the best possible nutrition for healthy growth and development. Released as a joint statement from Health Canada, the Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada and the Breastfeeding Committee for Canada, the updated infant feeding guidelines reflect the latest scientific evidence.
Of particular importance, is a statement confirming infants can start eating whole eggs at the age of 6 months. In the past, infant feeding guidelines recommended delaying the introduction of solid foods that were common allergens, as it was believed that introducing these foods too early in life could increase the child’s likelihood of developing an allergy.
Eggs were included in this category, as some babies may have an allergic sensitivity to the protein in egg white. The old message was: egg yolks can be introduced at 6 months, but don’t feed your child whole eggs before one year.
This new guideline has major nutritional benefits for growing infants. Eggs are an important part of a baby’s diet beyond their iron content and are also a nutritious source of protein, fat, Vitamins A, D, E and B12, and folate. Eggs are also a source of choline, which plays an important role in brain development.
Eggs also have a protein quality that is second only to breast milk and they are easy to chew and digest. They also have a delicate taste that most babies and young children enjoy. The nutritional value of eggs has long been recognized and with the revised infant feeding guidelines, parents can feel good about completely introducing this nutritious food earlier in the lives of their children.
The advice on eggs was updated based on the results of a large population-based study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in 2010. The researchers provided evidence to overturn the idea that whole eggs should not be introduced into the diet of a 6 month old. They studied 2,600 infants and found that feeding cooked eggs to infants at 4 to 6 months did not increase the risk of egg allergy and in fact, the findings suggest that it might decrease allergy risk.
For the first 6 months, healthy term infants need only breast milk or iron-fortified infant formula. After 6 months, however, an infant’s iron stores are depleted and the experts recommend gradual introduction of iron-rich, solid foods to reduce the risk of iron deficiency and support the baby’s increasingly rapid growth.
The infant feeding guidelines say good sources of iron for infants include iron-fortified cereal, legumes, and well-cooked meat purées and meat alternatives, including eggs. Between 6 and 12 months, while continuing to be fed with breast milk or formula, infants should be offered iron-rich foods two or more times a day. During the second year, iron-rich foods should be offered at each meal, at least three or more times per day.
Those early solid foods should be prepared and served in a way that is not too spicy or salty, and is safe and easy for the infant to eat. For eggs, this means they should be well-cooked and not contain large pieces.
Learn more about eggs and nutrition and find recipes for cooking eggs for babies at eggs.ca.