Most new parents make plans and plans and plans and prepare for lots of things when a baby is on the way: a birth plan, a sleep strategy, a feeding plan, and so on. We know that new moms are often looking for 2 things: control and confidence. And while there are a lot of unknowns in the first year, there are a few things you can plan for. A food allergy protection plan is one plan parents can take seriously, and master successfully, with just a few key changes based on what we know today. An ideal food allergy protection plan should be based on 3 key points:
- Early Introduction
- Diverse Diet
- Routine Feeding
Early Food Introduction
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting your child on solids between 4 and 6 months of age. In a reversal from decades of advice from pediatricians to avoid the foods associated with food allergies, 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. Waiting too long to introduce and regularly feed these foods, research shows, increases the allergy risk.
Your job: Introduce common allergens (e.g., egg, peanut, fish, shrimp, sesame) just as you introduce fruits and vegetables. Help your baby love and enjoy and tolerate all of these foods!
Eating a diverse diet with multiple allergenic foods may reduce the likelihood of a food allergy by over 90%. Two landmark studies – LEAP and EAT – found that an infant’s risk of developing a food allergy dropped significantly when they were introduced to a potentially allergenic food early (as early as 4 months of age) and maintained inclusion of that food through early childhood.
Further research found that introducing young infants to multiple allergens at once was safe. The EAT study showed that 98% of babies who were fed foods like peanuts, sesame, eggs, fish, and dairy by five months of age and who kept those foods in their diets regularly did not develop a food allergy.
So make sure you’re offering your little one lots of different types of foods.
Consistency is key. Intermittent or “one bite” exposure to foods may not be enough to protect babies. Like any great habit (think toothbrushing), research shows the immune system works best when it’s exposed to a wide variety of foods regularly throughout a child’s early years. Scientists believe regular, consistent exposure to common allergens in the diet throughout early childhood is key to staying healthy. You can use this guide to talk with your pediatrician about our evidence-based approach to food allergy protection.
You can take these 3 tips and set your baby up for a lifetime of fearless, allergy-free eating! Enjoy the transition to solid foods and all the peace and protection that comes from an amazing plan.
Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson is a pediatrician, mom to two boys, and the Chief Medical Officer at SpoonfulOne. SpoonfulOne is a line of nutritional products designed to help stop a food allergy before it starts.*
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