Advice in the pediatric world is constantly evolving, and we know how hard it can be as a parent to decide what is best when it comes to preventing food allergies and boosting your little one’s health.
To help you navigate this complex landscape, we’ve put together a list of some of the most common ‘do’s’ and ‘don'ts’ when it comes to food allergies in babies.
Until recently, pediatricians have recommended women avoid food allergens in their diet while pregnant or breastfeeding. But new guidance has shown this advice is dated and inaccurate.
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, healthy diet—including common allergens— during pregnancy and breastfeeding is one of the most important things you can do for your developing baby.
A study completed by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) showed that out of the 1,315 pregnant women surveyed, babies were more likely to develop food allergies when born to mothers with poor diet diversity and who had a history of allergic disease. Of the mothers classified in this way, 33% of their children were diagnosed with food allergies by the age of 2!
That makes having a well-rounded diet from the different food groups and allergens—such as cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, sesame, wheat, fish and shellfish—essential in making sure that your baby gets the nutrients they need to grow healthy.
Research now shows early and regular dietary exposure to a food — especially foods often associated with allergies like peanuts — helps reduce the risk of a child developing an allergy to that food.
Research has also shown that allergic reactions get more severe as your baby gets older. That's why early allergen introduction is essential in helping your baby have a thriving future with food.
Introducing food allergens early and often is the best approach. When your baby is ready to start eating solids, usually around 4-6 months, both the AAP and the USDA guidelines recommend you also start introducing the most common food allergens.
Food allergy experts do not recommend waiting days between introducing new foods. Waiting too long to introduce and regularly feed these foods can increase your baby's allergy risk.
Lead author, Dr. Waheeda Samady, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine states in a new study: "Waiting for days between each new food introduction to infants limits food diversity in the infant diet.”
Furthermore, Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH, and Director of the Center of Food Allergy and Asthma Research states that: "From the perspective of food allergy detection and prevention, there is no reason why a new food can't be tried every day. The guidelines need to be revisited and updated to reflect the latest research on food allergy prevention and to provide greater clarity for pediatricians and parents on safe solid food introduction to infants."
Introducing and maintaining a variety of foods in your little one’s diet can help guide the immune system by training it to recognize potentially allergenic foods as safe. Intermittent or “one bite" exposure to foods may not be enough for allergen introduction.
Research shows the immune system works best when it's exposed to a wide variety of foods regularly throughout a child’s early years. That from the moment they start solids, through their first year and beyond!