3 Things to consider when introducing solid foods to infants

Thursday night we ended up in the ER with Athena. It was the scariest moment of my life and if I’m being honest, I’m a bit traumatized. If you have kids, this may seem like a rookie mistake to you and you’ll probably think I’m an idiot. But I want to share this experience for those that are new parents, like myself, or are expecting.

We’ve been giving Athena solid food for about a month now. She’s had pureed carrots, peas, and avocado. We’ve also given her sips of 2 types of juices we make. One contains kale, spinach, cucumber, lemon, ginger, and celery (this is her favorite). The second contains blueberries, kale, bananas, dates, and almond milk. As vegans, we drink a lot of almond milk. We also drink coconut milk and cashew milk every now and then. Because of this, we naturally, didn’t even think twice about giving our baby nut-based milks.

If you’re a new parent, you may not have thought about allergens when you’re introducing new foods. I sure didn’t. I mean, it crossed my mind at one point when she was first born but that thought had long vanished from my mind. Food allergies don’t run in my family history or in Marc’s so it’s not something we really thought about. It’s especially easy to forget to think of these types of things when you’re a new parent because there’s a multitude of things going on. You forget even the most basic things. Some days I don’t even remember to brush my teeth. Food allergies are such a serious issue, life-threatening even. You’d think that you’d remember to think about something so serious. But we didn’t, and Athena had a major allergic reaction.

I had just made some cashew milk and we decided to give Athena a bit to try. She probably had an ounce or less and within minutes she began to scratch feverishly. As I grabbed her hands to stop her from scratching, I saw her chest was covered in hives. Even as she was breaking into hives, a cashew allergy didn’t cross my mind until Marc said it. I told Marc to call the pediatrician.  As he was pulling up the phone number, the hives kept spreading and growing. By the time he found it (not even 2 min had passed), her chest, belly, and neck were covered in big, thick, hives. It looked as if her skin was going to burst. Then she let out a little wail and her voice had changed. She sounded muffled, I immediately told Marc to drive us to the hospital. I breastfed her as Marc gathered our things. 

This photo was taken a bit after they gave her medication. It was so much worse before.
This photo was taken a bit after they gave her medication. It was so much worse before.

Fortunately for us, the nearest hospital is literally 10 minutes away. We made it in 5 and rushed into the emergency room. On the way there, I called the hospital to let them know were coming. Judging by the total lack of urgency in their step, I thought maybe I overreacted. Although, I honestly think that if someone walked in holding their own severed arm, the staff would have behaved equally as slowly. They had us sit so they could take Athena’s vitals. We hadn’t given her anything at this point, except breastmilk, and I noticed the swelling had gone down. I’m not sure about this, but I think the breastmilk may have helped reduce the hives a bit because they seemed to be improving. Her voice also improved a bit before she got any medication. They administered diphenhydramine and dexamethasone orally to treat the hives. Within a couple hours the rash was completely gone.

Even her ears swelled up. This photo was taken after they gave her medication. Here, some of the swelling has reduced.

3 Things to consider when introducing solid foods to infants

Introduce only one new food per day

Introducing only one new food per day will make it easier to find the culprit should your child experience and allergic reaction. The rule used to be every four days but that has since changed. However, if food allergies run in your or your partner’s families, consider sticking to the four day rule which is waiting 4 days before introducing a new food. Nuts and nut-based milks were recommended only after baby’s first year but those guidelines have also changed. The American Academy of Pediatrics now suggests introducing these foods as early as 4 months of age.

“New research has shown early introduction of peanuts into the diet of infants at high risk of peanut allergy can play a role in the prevention of peanut allergies. Based on this new research, European and U.S. physicians are developing formal guidelines regarding early-life complementary feeding practices.” – American Academy of Pediatrics

Introduce new foods in small doses

This was the mistake we made. Athena likes drinking from a regular cup so I poured a bit of cashew milk in there and let her sip it. She drank maybe about an ounce of it. What we should have done, is let her drink it from a bottle or sippy cup, which have a low flow. This way, we could have noticed the allergic reaction before she ingested a larger amount. We did initially have her drink it from a bottle but she wouldn’t drink it. She seems to only like having breastmilk in her bottle. So we tried it in a regular plastic cup and she drank it right away. Try introducing new foods in one ounce measurements. Be sure to keep a close eye on your child during and after a feeding, in order to spot any signs of an allergic reaction.

Have some medication ready

We have now learned that in case of an allergic reaction, if your child is still breathing, most pediatricians will recommend benadryl. Check with your pediatrician on how and when to administer this medication and what steps to follow, in case of an allergic reaction. We now have some benadryl in our medicine cabinet in case this happens again. If food allergies run in your or your partner’s family, and your child is of the required weight, ask your pediatrician if they can prescribe an epi pen jr.

Now that this has all passed and it’s been a few days, a small part of me thinks I may have overreacted but I still think I made the right call. When I saw the rash and hives spreading so quickly and heard my baby’s muffled voice, all I could think was that her throat was going to close up and she would stop breathing. I would never want to take that chance so that’s why we booked it to the hospital. So my last piece of advice is, listen to your instincts. No one loves your child more than you do. No one will take better care of them than you will, so don’t worry about looking like a crazy, dramatic parent during these types of situations. Follow your instincts because no one knows your baby better than you.






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