When Can I Give My Baby Soy?

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Question: Introducing Soy - When Can I Give My Baby Soy?

Soy is in the Big 8 list of food allergies and can affect babies, kids and adults.

Answer:

Soy is an ingredient that is allergenic. Foods that contain soy include soy milk, edamame, soy sauce, tamari, tofu, miso and tempeh -- and many processed foods.

Soy formula has long been the first choice for babies who experience problems with cow's milk formula or who are lactose intolerant, but now many doctors advise that babies be given lactose-free formulas that aren't soy based, such as hydrolyzed protein formulas like Alimentum or Nutramigen.

Dr. William Sears in The Baby Book recommends against soy formula as a first choice for many reasons including that "30-50 percent of infants who are allergic to cow's milk protein are also allergic to soy protein," and that "giving an infant soy at a young age, when intestines are more permeable to allergens, may predispose the child to soy allergies later on, even as an adult." So, if problems arise with cow's milk formula, know that soy is not your only option.

Offer your child soy in moderation when they show an interest in solid foods (see more on when to introduce solid foods if you're concerned about food allergies). Tofu is a good start as babies like the texture and it doesn't have a heavily beany flavor like some soy products. It's also less gas producing, which is a bonus for sensitive tummies.

If You Have Allergies in the Family

Talk to your physician if you have any concerns.

Whether or not you have a history, the first time you introduce soy, be sure to watch for the signs of an allergic reaction (hives, difficulty breathing or asthma symptoms, swelling of the mouth or throat, vomiting or diarrhea and loss of consciousness), know how to respond and be ready to call 9-1-1 immediately.

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