Introducing Food Allergens to Your Baby

All parents worry about discovering a food allergy when their tots start exploring the world of solid foods. Here's what you can do to encourage allergy prevention from the start.

Around six months of age, babies begin incorporating purees and everyday foods into their daily diets. While introducing new foods is exciting (and entertaining with the sometimes-funny faces your little one makes), it’s also a bit nerve-wracking the first time you offer something that could cause an allergic reaction. Cue the sweaty brow, we’re going in with the peanut butter.

What’s important to know is that medical advice says early introduction is part of the strategy in creating a resistance to high-risk common allergens like peanuts, eggs and milk. In 2019, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated their recommendations for infant food allergies and allergic conditions, such as eczema. The report incorporated all current evidence from clinical studies, including Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) on early allergen introduction. Most notably, the report encourages introducing peanuts as early as 4-6 months of age. Dr. Jonathan Spergel, head of allergies at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, reinforces that there is no reason for parents to delay allergen introduction, so don’t fret!

Now, we realize it’s easy to hear the science behind the method and still feel apprehensive about the process at large. Thankfully, there are different ways of incorporating allergenic foods into your baby’s diet that are approved by pediatricians and geared toward safety.

One option is to see if your pediatrician is open to doing initial taste tests in office, so she can observe and lookout for any issues. If that’s not an option or you’re up for giving it a go at home, check out the following methods to get started.

(Before you begin: If you have a family history of food allergies, there is an increased risk of your child being predisposed as well. You can read more about the impact of family history and food allergies here and bring it up with a healthcare professional if you have questions.)

Slow, Steady and Consistent

According to allergy.org, you should offer allergenic foods frequently throughout babe’s first year in age-appropriate form, such as a hard boiled egg or a small amount of smooth peanut butter (textured nut butters present a choking hazard).

Look to introduce eggs, peanuts, cow’s milk, tree nuts (such as cashews and almonds), soy, sesame, wheat, fish, shellfish and other seafood. Only incorporate one allergen into baby’s food at a time, so it’s easy to identify if something causes a problem. If there are no side effects, feel free to include the allergenic food twice a week to continue building baby’s tolerance. Trying a food and not giving it regularly can still result in a food allergy developing.

If your little one displays symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as hives, swelling, vomiting or a change in behavior (becoming unsettled or increasingly fussy), stop the feeding and seek medical advice. Call an ambulance immediately if a severe allergic reaction occurs (anaphylaxis), including difficulty breathing, tongue swelling, or if your child becomes pale and floppy. These signs typically pop up a few minutes to two hours after ingestion, so keep an eye on things post-mealtime and consider introducing a new food earlier in the day well before it’s time for baby’s nap.

Utilize an Allergen Kit

If you’re more comfortable following specific instructions when it comes to allergies and infant feeding, a guided system may be your best option. For example, the plan Ready, Set, Food! offers stage-based pre-measured packets of allergen powders you can mix with breast milk, formula or regular baby food. It was created by a team of pediatricians and allergists who all agree that early intervention is key.

Through each stage, you will safely introduce your baby to a total of nine top food allergens by the time they reach their first birthday. Each stage prioritizes what allergens are most important to be introduced, so you don’t have to decide or do any additional research. You can enter to win a free six-month supply of Ready, Set, Food! here and start giving your child a better chance of not developing a lifelong food allergy.

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