September is the month with the highest birth rate in New Zealand, with October not far behind. Other countries share this statistic- Australia, North America, the United Kingdom, Mexico, the list goes on! 9 months after all those Christmas and New Year’s festivities, babies pop into the world more than any other time of year.
If you have a baby who seems to be reactive to certain foods, what are your options? Here we will look at the very special topic of hair testing for babies: when its appropriate, how to do it, and why it might be useful.
It is always important that babies, and their breastfeeding mothers, get maximum appropriate nutrition. It is always best to make dietary changes for babies and infants under the care of a qualified health practitioner.
Some of the common reasons parents choose to test their babies for food reactivities are:
- Digestive upsets
- Agitation and restlessness
- Difficulty settling or sleeping
- Skin problems such as eczema or rashes
- Recurrent immune issues or infections, eg. ear infections or glue ear
Babies Who Are Breastfed
Breastfed babies can react to foods their mother is eating. When exclusively breastfed babies are tested, it’s mum who has to change her diet. This must always be done carefully and with the supervision of a health practitioner, as most breastfeeding mums don’t need any further stress or unnecessary dietary restrictions! Breastmilk is always the best food for babies however, and the breastfeeding relationship and breastmilk supply must be protected at all costs.
Babies Who Are Formula Fed
Babies reliant on formula as their primary food source may benefit from changing formulas if they are experiencing reactivity. Testing may help to determine which are the most appropriate formulas. Choosing a formula needs serious consideration and should always be done with the guidance of a health practitioner.
Babies Starting Solids
Whether babies have breastmilk or formula or a mixture, around 6 months of age they’ll usually be ready to start introducing solids. For some babies this is when the problems start. While adjusting to eating solid foods can take some time, its important to distinguish between the normal upsets associated with the adaptation and maturing of the digestive system, and unwanted issues such as pain, ongoing bowel issues or skin problems. Testing can provide a useful guide for when to introduce which new foods.
Why Hair Testing Is Useful
The beauty of hair testing is that it is non-invasive, and highly sensitive. Some medical professionals are reluctant to make any connections between diet and other health symptoms, yet natural health practitioners have always noted the link. Tests available through the medical system such as blood tests and skin prick tests are always appropriate when there are signs of a true allergy or anaphylactic reaction, or where there are serious health concerns such as complete lactose intolerance or a failure to thrive. Often such tests will come back as clear or inconclusive in the case of food sensitivities however. This doesn’t mean there isn’t some kind of reactivity happening. To understand the difference between true allergies and sensitivities, please read our article here.
How To Do It
Babies can be tested using a hair sample just like anyone can. About half a teaspoon is required. Read more here if your baby simply doesn’t have enough hair! There are still plenty of options.