When can babies eat eggs? It’s one of those questions that we as health professionals get all the time. And understandably, since guidelines on allergen introduction, including eggs, have recently changed.
It used to be that parents were told not to introduce eggs to babies until after 2 years, especially egg whites. But more recently, guidelines and our understanding of food allergies have changed to include introducing allergens early and often. Meaning that you can, and should, introduce eggs to your baby when they start foods around 6 months! I’m going into all the details about when you can give a baby eggs, how to serve eggs to babies, and how many times you can give eggs in a week below!
Eggs are one of the more common causes of food allergies. They, along with several other foods including peanuts and milk, are the cause of 90% of food allergies.
In 2015, the LEAP study focusing on peanut introduction was published, and it changed the way many experts understand food allergies. Instead of the old recommendation to delay introduction of peanuts, this study showed that early introduction was actually beneficial to decreasing the chance of an allergy. Delayed introduction caused a significant increase in allergies to peanuts!
And while eggs are not peanuts clearly, they are one of the high-risk foods, just like peanuts, putting them in the same category. Several more studies have been done since 2016, and some of them have been on eggs. There is no evidence to show that delaying serving eggs, or any other high-risk food, decreases the prevalence of allergies. And the general trend of the research trials are showing that in many cases eggs are similar to peanuts. Meaning early, purposeful introduction can help to reduce the prevalence of egg allergies.
The AAP recently updated their recommendation to include the early introduction of peanuts to high risk babies, as well as all babies in general.
They have yet to release a policy covering the introduction of other top food allergens. However, several other top organizations, including the European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, recommend introducing allergenic foods once foods are introduced.
This is the recommendation that I, and most other pediatric specialists follow. Since there is no evidence of benefit to delayed introduction, and more evidence suggesting a potential benefit, introducing all of the top allergens early in the feeding journey is the way to go.
One of the biggest concerns parents have when introducing eggs is the chance that their baby will be one of the ones to develop an egg allergy. Outside of the risk factors including severe eczema and an immediate family member with an allergy, there is simply no way to say for sure whether your child will have an allergy to a food.
But one of the best things you can do is know what to look for in the case that one does occur, and what to do if there is a reaction.
If your child is showing signs of a mild reaction, such as an itchy or runny nose or a few hives, it is fine to wait to get an appointment with your medical provider and discuss the symptoms with them or an allergist.
If your child is showing signs of a severe reaction, such as difficulty breathing or loss of consciousness, call 911 and seek immediate treatment.
The bottom lines is that for most babies, you should start serving the whole egg once you start foods around 6 months of age. There is no need to wait until a certain age to give eggs.
If your baby is in the high-risk category for food allergies (severe eczema, immediate family member with a food allergy) then I recommend having a discussion with your health practitioner or a pediatric allergist to get a plan together for starting solids. Often times for the very high-risk babies they might recommend introduction before 6 months.
Now that you know it is okay to serve babies eggs, the question turns to just how should you serve them?
For baby led weaning, there are lots of ways to serve eggs! The easiest one right from the start is to serve them as somewhat of an egg omelet. Watch the video below for quick instructions on how to do this.
While this may be the easiest way to serve eggs at the beginning, it is definitely not the only way to serve eggs to babies. All of the ways shown in the picture below are okay to serve babies. The only caveat is that you want them to be able to pick the eggs up, so stick with the bigger or spoonable ways at the start of eating.
Many people have asked if it is okay to serve scrambled eggs for babies. It is! The only thing to be aware of is that at the beginning it may be very hard for babies to pick them up. Try leaving them on the clumpier side, or wait until your baby has developed a pincer grasp and is able to pick the pieces up with two fingers. This usually occurs a bit closer to 9 months, but as always it varies by baby.
Yet another common questions I get. I don’t have a specific answer other than to say that too much of any food, even nutritious ones, can be bad! We are no longer concerned with cholesterol in eggs specifically, and eating too much of any one food is really the bigger concern here. Try sticking with serving eggs every other day if your baby is one that can eat a lot of them at one meal. If they only eat part of an egg, then it’s not as big of a deal to serve it each day.
I prefer to look at foods and those foods that we choose to fill our children’s diets from a different perspective. Instead of thinking about how many eggs specifically a baby can have each week, think about what other foods are they not having because they’re having eggs constantly. At what point are the eggs crowding out other necessary foods?
Do they have a good variety of iron-rich foods? How about omega-3s, fruits and vegetables, zinc-rich foods? Variety really is the most important thing when it comes to diet, more so than a certain amount of any food.
For help with getting variety into your diet and making sure you’re covering all the nutrient groups that are necessary, make sure you check out the ebook Grow Baby Grow!
The ebook designed to help you feed your child a nutrient-rich, varied diet! You'll learn all the nutrients that are important in the first two years of your child's life, what the best foods are to get those nutrients in, and how you can serve a varied diet to ensure you are meeting all of their needs!
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