Introducing your baby to new foods isn't just about him discovering flavours — you'll be finding out just how his body reacts to the new things you're putting in it. A food allergy occurs when the body's immune system reacts abnormally to certain foods, often releasing the chemical histamine, which causes the hives and swelling typical of an allergic reaction. So, how do you know if your baby's at risk — and what should you do if you think you see a reaction?
Allergies in the family
If you, your spouse or another close relative suffers from eczema, asthma or hay fever, your baby has a higher risk of all allergies, including to foods. If both mum and dad are allergic, the risk increases by as much as 80 per cent.
One school of thought is that we keep our homes so clean, our children aren't exposed to enough germs (which help babies to build up their immunity). Use antibacterial products sparingly, have a family pet and take your baby regularly to the park to play on grass.
One by one
This is the approach when introducing new foods into your baby's weaning plan, so you'll know the cause of any allergic reaction. Keep breastfeeding as research suggests that breastmilk protects against allergies, possibly because of the probiotics it contains.