Introducing solid food after the 17th week of birth could reduce food allergies in babies who are also breastfed, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics. The researchers found that children who had developed allergies started eating solid food before age 16 weeks. They were also more likely to not be breastfed.

“Introducing solid foods alongside breastfeeding can benefit the immune system,” stated Kate Grimshaw, PhD, RD. “It appears the immune system becomes educated when there is an overlap of solids and breast milk because the milk promotes tolerogenic [tolerant] mechanisms against the solids.” The study involved over 1,100 children, 41 of whom developed allergies by age two. Diets of those children were compared with the diets of 82 other infants who did not develop allergies.

A couple years ago I reported on a study that found the omega-3 content of mother’s diets also plays a role in the development of allergies in infants. The immune systems of infants are very much in a developmental stage—along with their gut bacteria—so supporting this delicate process is important. The more we know about how to set our infants up for great health from an early age, the better they will fare in the long run.