Is It Safe To Introduce Eggs During Complementary Feeding?

On our article on complementary feeding (“weaning”) we pointed out that feeding with other foods other than breast milk should begin at the age of six months since by this time their nutrient requirements cannot be satisfied by breast milk only, not to mention their digestive system has developed enough to digest solid food.

We also pointed that the introduction of any new foods should be done gradually, with each food introduced separately so as to establish whether the child may have any negative reaction to a particular food.

Eggs are usually one of the foods that are introduced by mothers during complementary feeding. Although there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the safety of introducing eggs to children at this time, for the majority of people there’s little to no reasons why one shouldn’t.

Eggs contain important nutrient which are essential for child growth and development. Some of them include vitamin D, essential and non-essential amino acids, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, folate, choline and iodine.

Furthermore, eggs contain good amount of cholesterol that a child needs for organs and brain development. If you thought all cholesterol is bad you may want to know the difference between good and bad cholesterol.



When to introduce Eggs?

eggs
Eggs
Delaying introduction of eggs has been shown by some studies not to prevent cases of developing allergies. The studies suggest that whole eggs may be introduced as early as from the start as long as the family has no history of food allergies and/or egg allergies.1

The part of the egg that has the allergens (what causes the allergy) is the white part (albumen) and not the yolk. The egg yolk has a little amount of protein compared to the white part of the egg which is has the bulk protein. The yolk is however a good source of vitamin A and cholesterol.

From this we can say that it should be safe to introduce eggs as early as the 6th month but care should be taken in families with histories of food allergies and/or egg allergies. In most Kenyan hospitals however, the recommendation is usually to start around 9 months as you introduce the animal proteins (meats).

Eggs like any other food should be introduced gradually so as to observe any possible reactions. A gap of 3 days between the introduction of any new food is what’s usually recommended.

You may also consider introducing the yolk first before the egg white since it is the later that’s responsible for most egg allergies.



How many eggs can the child eat in a week?

There seems to be no definite recommendation regarding how many eggs should be eaten and it’s even claimed that a child can handle an egg everyday due to their higher requirements for fats and cholesterol needed for their developing brains and other organs.

Still, the maximum number eggs to be taken should not be of most concern rather one should focus more on ensuring that their child gets a healthy balanced diet every day.

Eggs fall under proteins and therefore can be used as the protein part of the meal just like other proteins (e.g. fish, poultry, meat and pulses). That doesn’t mean however that you source all your protein dishes from eggs only. The key thing here, just like for adults, is to ensure a good balanced diet that has a variety of food sources, and in this case, a variety of protein sources.2

Beyond that, care must be taken when preparing egg. Eggs that are undercooked or raw should not be given to a child.

Proper hygiene should also be observed when storing, preparing, cooking and serving eggs to prevent contamination as babies are at higher risk of food borne diseases which can be fatal. Eggs that are boiled until both the egg white and yolk are solid will destroy bacteria such as salmonella.3

Once the child has gotten used to eggs, they can be incorporated into other foods to make them more nutritious and more enjoyable for your child. A whole egg that has been properly boiled can for instance be easily mashed into other foods. 

Should you've any doubts on what to feed your child, we advise you see the Nutritionist in your health facility during the routine monthly growth monitoring at 6 months. This way you can get a comprehensive and more personalised advice regarding what to feed your child(ren).

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