Kids eat right.

Is Your Baby Sensitive to Food?

Reviewed by Sarah Klemm, RDN, CD, LDN
baby eating food

Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Thinkstock

Some babies are sensitive to certain foods, but how do you know? Certain reactions, like a rash, diarrhea or vomiting, are tell-tale signs that a food doesn't agree with your baby but they may mean different things.

Food sensitivities and food allergies are not the same. Understanding the difference between them is important, especially in children. If your child is allergic to a food, they may be at risk for anaphylaxis, but if they avoid healthful foods unnecessarily they may be missing out on key nutrients for growth.

A food allergy is an immune system reaction to a food that the body sees as a threat. Whereas food intolerances and sensitivities can be harder to pinpoint because they may have a delayed response in the body. While there are tests your doctor can do to help determine if your baby has a food allergy, there aren’t always tests to quickly uncover intolerances and sensitivities.

Be sure to discuss any concerns with a pediatrician and monitor your baby for food reactions.

  • Breastfeeding is recommended for at least the first 6 months of life, and if breastfeeding is not an option, then an iron-fortified formula is recommended. Around four to six months of age, babies usually start to show signs they are ready to try solid foods. You can begin introducing new age-appropriate foods while continuing to feed infants breast milk or formula.
  • As you introduce new foods, offer one at a time. Wait a couple of days before introducing another new food. That way if your baby has a problem, you'll know which food caused it.
  • It doesn’t matter which food groups you start with, but it’s recommended to start with a few non-allergenic foods first to see how your baby handles solid food. Foods, including single-grain iron-fortified infant cereals, meats and beans are encouraged as first foods, since they provide nutrients like iron and zinc. Potentially allergenic foods, such as eggs, peanut products, wheat, and fish are also recommended, since delaying their introduction may increase the risk of food allergy. Some foods, such as nuts and chunks of peanut butter, pose a choking hazard, so the size of food and its consistency also need to be considered. Cow’s milk and soy milk should not be introduced until 12 months of age or older. Serve plain fruits, vegetables and meats instead of mixed varieties. If your baby has a reaction to a certain food, stop serving that food.
  • Keep track of everything your baby eats. It’s a good idea to keep a log of any symptoms you notice, such as rashes, diarrhea or vomiting, along with daily food intake.
  • If any food causes a significant and ongoing problem, talk to your baby's doctor. Together, you can establish a plan that is best for your baby. The best protocol is to consult your pediatrician or allergist and seek help from a registered dietitian nutritionist. An RDN can give you advice on safe foods to include, as well as well-rounded meal plans to ensure that your child gets optimal nutrition every day.