Babies are not typically born with food allergies, they develop over time. While all babies are at risk of developing a food allergy, some of the most common high-risk factors include eczema, delaying the introduction of common allergens, presence of other food allergies, and family history.
But by understanding the factors for developing an infant food allergy and taking some simple-yet-important steps, USDA guidelines suggest that introducing common allergens regularly can help your baby from developing a food allergy!
Additional Reading: What Causes Food Allergies in Babies
Any food has the potential to cause an allergic reaction and so far, over 160 foods have been identified. But there are 9 food groups in particular that are more common.
According to FARE, the top nine food allergens in the United States are milk, wheat, egg, sesame, tree nuts, soy, fish, shellfish and peanuts.
Additional Reading: 9 Of The Most Common Food Allergies
Delaying or avoiding the introduction of allergenic foods does not provide protection against food allergies.
In fact, the Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study found that early introduction of peanut-containing foods reduced the risk of developing a peanut allergy by 86%. That’s one reason why the new USDA Guidelines suggest that introducing common allergens regularly, like peanuts, egg, cow milk products, tree nuts, wheat, crustacean shellfish, fish, and soy, at 4-6 months can help your baby from developing a food allergy.
According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), there is no evidence to suggest that restricting a mother’s diet while she is pregnant or breastfeeding will prevent the development of food allergies.
In fact, restricting your diet during pregnancy can make it harder to get the calories and nutrients you need to support the growth and development of your baby. Eating a diverse diet, including common allergens, is important for a developing baby.
Additional Reading: Can You Prevent Food Allergies In Babies During Pregnancy?
If mothers consume allergenic foods while breastfeeding, their baby may gain some level of exposure to allergens. For concerned parents, there is no evidence of an increased risk of allergies developing when consuming allergenic foods while breastfeeding.
Recent research has shown no association between maternal exclusion diets and the prevention of allergies. The latest guidelines from allergy researchers do not recommend that mothers avoid common allergens in their diet during pregnancy and lactation as a means to prevent food allergy.
Additional Reading: Food Allergies And Breastfeeding: Is There A Link?
4-6 months acts as the critical window to introduce infants to potentially allergenic foods along with other complementary foods, once they start to show developmental signs of readiness.
Introducing a variety of diverse foods can help guide the immune system by training it to recognize potentially allergenic foods as safe.
Additional Reading: Introducing Allergenic Foods to Babies
There are no rules on which food should come first, that decision is up to you and there are many fun and nutritious recipes to try with your little ones! But it’s important to keep exposure to diverse foods as a routine and part of their everyday feedings.
Furthermore, the AAP states that, “New research has shown that it is safe to start multiple foods at once. Within two or three months, your baby’s daily diet should include breast milk, iron-fortified whole-grain cereals, vegetables, meats (including fish), eggs, fruits, and nut butters (but never whole nuts) distributed among three meals.”
Additional Reading: Introducing Solids to Infants: A Complete Guide
Feeding allergens, like eggs or nuts, just once or twice is not enough when it comes to helping train your little one's tummy immunity. When eaten on a regular basis within and beyond the first year of life, the immune cells in the stomach begin to recognize the most common food allergens as just food.
At SpoonfulONE, we encourage parents to introduce early, expose as often as possible, and continue regular exposure at least through the first couple years of life.
Additional Reading: During Baby’s First Year: Maintenance of Allergen Introduction
Though we know the best time to introduce allergenic foods to your child is between 4-6 months, if your child has already passed this threshold it is better to start late than never!
Signs of food allergy in infants are usually immediate or within minutes (and no more than 2 hours) of eating. For babies, the most common allergic reaction consistent with a food allergy is development of hives on the skin, and/or vomiting. Other mild to moderate symptoms include swelling of the face, lips, and eyes. Confirmation of a food allergy comes with allergy testing from a pediatric allergist.
Additional Reading: My Child Already Has A Food Allergy: Can They Have SpoonfulONE?