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Berries can be a healthy part of your child's diet soon after she begins to eat solid food, usually when she's around 4 to 6 months old. But if your baby has chronic eczema or a food allergy, talk to the doctor first.
Berries aren't one of the top allergenic foods, but they can still cause allergies. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Section on Allergy and Immunology says that most babies can start eating foods like strawberries and raspberries after introducing a few traditional solid foods (such as baby cereal, pureed meat, vegetables, and other fruits) without causing an allergic reaction. Even children with mild eczema or a family history of food allergies or asthma can try foods like berries as long as they tolerate more common foods first.
Some children should not start eating berries until the doctor has given the green light. Talk to the doctor if your baby:
- Has moderate to severe eczema after following a doctor's skin treatment plan
- Has had an immediate allergic reaction to a food in the past
- Was previously diagnosed with a food allergy
When introducing an allergenic food, the AAP recommends giving it to your baby at home, rather than at daycare or a restaurant. And as with any new food, serve it for three to five days before offering something else. That way you can monitor your baby for a reaction and know what's likely causing it.
Signs of a food allergy are facial swelling (including the tongue and lips), skin rash, wheezing, abdominal cramping, vomiting, and diarrhea. If your baby shows any of these signs – mild or severe – or has trouble breathing right after trying a new food, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
Besides an allergy, there are a couple of other things you'll want to watch out for:
- Choking. To prevent choking, hold off on giving your baby cut-up pieces of whole, raw berries until she's been eating other finger foods successfully and has several teeth. Wash, cook, puree, and strain strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries that you prepare at home.
- Pesticides. Conventionally grown strawberries also have relatively high levels of pesticide residue, so you may want to consider buying organic berries.
Some babies may not digest the seeds in berries very well. If you notice seeds in your child's dirty diaper, don't be alarmed. It may look strange, but it just means the seeds passed harmlessly through your baby's digestive system.