When can I give eggs to my baby?
Is it safe for a weaning baby to eat eggs? At what age? And what about egg allergy? We shell out the latest expert advice...
You can give eggs to your baby from the age of 6 months, once you've started weaning onto solid food, according to official NHS advice.
In fact, the experts who sit on the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition have concluded that introducing eggs into your baby's diet ay 6 months – and continuing to serve them up on a regular basis – may even help reduce the risk of your baby developing egg allergy.
Do eggs have particular nutritional benefits for my baby?
Eggs contain many key nutrients, including high-quality protein, vitamin B12, folate, selenium, and long chain omega-3 fatty acids.
Eggs also contain 3 other nutrients that are particularly important for and infant development: iodine, choline and vitamin D. These nutrients can be found only in a limited number of other foods.
But are eggs safe for weaning babies to eat?
Yes they are – although researchers writing in the Journal of Health Visiting have found that many of us are still unsure about this because of some food-safety concerns around eggs in the past.
Back in the 1980s, there were worries that eggs might be contaminated with salmonella and, as a result, it was officially recommended at the time that young babies, pregnant women and elderly people (classified as 'vulnerable groups') should avoid raw, runny or lightly cooked eggs or foods containing them.
In October 2018, however, The Food Standards Agency (FSA) announced a change to this advice, saying that eggs stamped with the British Lion mark were safe for anyone to eat, however they were cooked (or not).
Heather Hancock, Chairman of the FSA, was reported as saying: “Vulnerable groups can safely eat UK eggs without needing to hardboil them, so long as they bear the British Lion mark. The FSA has thoroughly reviewed the scientific evidence about the safety of these eggs, and we're confident that we can now change our advice to consumers."
Don't you have to wait till your baby's 9 months or 10 months old?
No. You may find some old articles online – probably originating in the US – that still suggest or recommend this but the current UK guidelines are clear that you can introduce eggs from 6 months.
So, runny eggs are definitely OK for babies?
Yes, soft-boiled, lightly cooked or runny eggs are all fine for babies to eat (as are raw eggs, in things such as homemade mayonnaise) – as long as the eggs are stamped with the red British Lion mark.
If the eggs you've bought are unmarked, or if you’re in any doubt about the mark, then NHS guidelines recommend you should cook the eggs until the yolk and white are both solid. This will kill any harmful bacteria, and make the egg safe for your baby to eat.
But what about egg allergy?
Egg allergy is one of the most common food allergies in childhood but it's still pretty uncommon: the EuroPrevail birth cohort study figures (2015) suggest a 2.18% incidence in the UK: meaning that roughly 2 in every 100 UK children develop an egg allergy (although many of these will 'grow out' of the allergy within a year or 2).
And it's definitely worth knowing that the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition report on Feeding in the First Year of Life has advised (in 2018) that not giving your child eggs during early weaning (6 to 12 months) may actually expose your child to a greater risk of developing egg allergy.
This recommendation comes off the back of several years of research suggesting that introducing allergenic foods (including peanuts, as well as eggs) at an early age can protect against the development of related allergies, rather than trigger them – as was previously thought.
"There is a far greater risk of your child developing allergies [by not having eggs] than there is a risk consuming them," says Dr Juliet Gray, a registered nutritionist who compiled a recent report on Egg consumption in pregnancy and infancy for the Journal of Health Visiting.
That said, if your family has a history of allergies or your child has eczema, it's worth talking to your health visitor or GP before introducing egg.
And the NHS does advise making sure that every child's very first taste of egg is a tiny one and given on its own (not mixed with other food), just so you can spot any reaction. Any reaction would be pretty much immediate and could include an itchy or runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, a rash and/or swelling – and would be something you'd need to talk to your GP about.
In extremely rare cases, the first taste of egg can lead to a severe reaction called anaphylaxis, characterised by breathing problems, dizziness or fainting, a rapid pulse and/or sweating. If this happens, you should call an ambulance.
How often should I give my baby eggs?
You should give your baby eggs regularly – and at least once or twice a week. That's because you need to keep up the anti-egg-allergy protective effect.
As the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition notes, "If initial exposure is not continued as part of the infant’s usual diet, then this may increase the risk of sensitisation and subsequent food allergy."
"In other words, once eggs are introduced, don’t stop," says Dr Juliet Gray. "You’ve exposed baby’s immune system to the protein. He or she will now develop tolerance to it but that needs regular exposure at least once per week.
"If you want, your baby can have eggs up to 3 or 4 times a week" there’s no problem. Particularly if you find them an easy way of feeding your baby."
What are the best egg recipe ideas for babies?
The great thing about eggs is that there's not much faff involved in preparing them for baby meals. You can quickly and easily serve up any of the following...
- Scrambled eggs
- Dippy eggs
- Fried egg on toast
- Mini egg sandwiches
- Dosa eggs
- Hard-boiled yolks mashed with yoghurt and apple
- Mini omelette or pancake
- Veggie egg rice: boiled egg mashed into rice and soft-cooked veg
Janet is mum to two children aged 6 & 9 and a great-Aunt too. She began writing early, penning her first book aged just 7. She has published 2 books
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