How to Prevent Food Allergies
Confused by when and how to safely introduce foods? How many times have you heard contradicting statements about what to feed your baby and when? Over a 100 years ago they used to swear by not feeding anything solid into at least 1 year. And then, miraculously, it was changed to start feeding your baby solids at just 6 weeks. I’m sure you’ve heard a million different things from staying away from cow’s milk to avoiding anything with eggs in it. So, how the heck are you supposed to know what to do! I’m sure you’ve heard it all by now, but the reason there are so many contradictions out there is because food allergies are no joke. About 5.6 million children have food allergies. That’s roughly two kids in every classroom. But, there is no need to avoid certain foods during breastfeeding. Restricting your baby’s diet will just make it harder for your baby to get all the nutrients and calories he needs. If you have food allergies in your family history, I recommended seeing an allergist for specific guidelines.
First, let’s list the Big 8. There are 8 foods that make up a majority of food allergies in people.
These are milk, eggs, fish shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans.
The most common food allergies in kids are milk, eggs, and peanuts.
And FYI, lactose intolerance is actually NOT common in babies and typically only starts showing up after age three in children. If there is something going on with your baby’s poop, it is best to seek out help from a IBCLC.
The latest and most evidence-based recommendations for how to prevent food allergies:
- By offering breast milk, your baby may be at lower risk of developing allergies. Because infancy offers a unique “window of opportunity” for allergy prevention. Breast milk contains nutrients and other bioactive components that could influence infant immune development and potentially help decrease their risk of developing food allergies.
- As of 2019, the American Academy of Pediatrics, NIH, and WHO all recommend offering a wide variety of foods. These recommendations include those from the big 8, at 6 months of age. Begin to offer solid foods to baby, one new food every 2-3 days, so that by slight chance there is a reaction, you can know exactly which food may be related. And yes these foods can include things like peanut butter, eggs, soy, fish, and dairy products.
- The benefits of exposing baby to foods early is that yes, it may help your baby to build tolerance to food antigens (i.e., help prevent food allergies). The chance of a possible allergic reaction is majorly outweighed by the nutritional benefits of foods. Foods like nut butter, fish, and eggs provide good sources of protein, fatty acids, and choline.
And if your baby is tolerating these foods from the big 8 well, continue to offer them regularly. This will help your baby maintain tolerance to these foods and prevent an allergy from developing.