Safe ways to give your baby fruit

Babies love fruit, but did you know that some may fruit put her health at risk?

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Fruit is packed with vitamins, minerals and other important plant nutrients. Along with vegetables, it forms a vital part of your baby’s daily diet. It’s good to introduce a wide variety of fruits as soon as possible, to maximise the nutrients you baby takes in, and the good news is that most babies love fruit’s sweet, fresh taste, bright colours and interesting shapes, so it shouldn’t be too hard to convince your child to tuck in.

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But while fruit is, on the whole, a healthy addition to your baby’s diet, there are some points to be aware of before you give her free access to the fruit bowl.

Fruit and allergies

Allergy to fruit is very rare – however, some children can be allergic to kiwi fruits, citrus and berries. Some types of fruit are more likely than others to cause an allergy, intolerance or reaction in your child. Some fruit are high in histamine which can cause facial flushing, which is not the same as an allergy.

Cooking can destroy the allergens that cause this type of reaction, so a child who has an allergic reaction to raw apples may be able to eat cooked apples. When first introducing fruit such as berries and tomatoes, cook these first. However, the reverse can also be true, with some cooked vegetables being more allergenic than raw, for example celery or celeriac, although it’s worth noting that celery is not a common allergy in the UK.

Babies are more likely to develop allergies if there is a family history of ‘atopic’ conditions such as eczema, asthma, hay fever or food allergies. Nonetheless allergies are relatively rare, and many children grow out of them or turn out to have been misdiagnosed.

Some parents like to proceed with caution and introduce new foods one at a time during the weaning process, waiting for three days before introducing another in order to monitor the baby’s reaction to that food. However, many nutritionists now believe it’s fine to introduce foods together or on consecutive days, unless there’s a history of atopic conditions in your family.

If you’re worried a particular fruit might cause a reaction, you may want to introduce it in isolation so you can watch for any symptoms. Give it early on in the day and, provided there are no adverse reactions, do the same for the next two days.

In the case of a violent reaction that involves breathing difficulties, swelling of the face, lips or tongue or closure of the throat (anaphylaxis), call an ambulance immediately.

Other signs of a less serious allergic reaction or intolerance may include:

  • Sudden diarrhoea or vomiting
  • Sudden skin rashes, particularly around the mouth or bottom
  • A runny nose
  • Hives
  • Irritability or wind after a new food
  • Stomach pain or digestive difficulty

If you have your suspicions that a certain fruit may be causing a mild allergic response, tell your GP.

If, after consultation with your GP or health visitor, you decide to wean your baby before six months, don’t introduce these potentially allergenic fruits until she reaches the six-month mark.

Fruit and choking

A more realistic concern with certain fruits is that your baby may choke on them, especially as they make ideal finger foods. Large lumps of food can be difficult for your baby to swallow and may lead to gagging and choking, so when you move on from purées, it’s best to stick to mashed or pea-sized pieces of fruit at first unless it’s cooked or very soft and will easily break up in the mouth.

Fruit like grapes, kiwi and chunks of melon should be cut into small pieces, while small, hard fruits such as raisins, sultanas and other dried fruits may also cause choking so are best avoided altogether until your baby is a year old. If you want to offer them, they can be cut up or blended in with stewed fruit and purées.

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Never leave your child unattended while she is eating: this includes giving her snacks in the car.

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