Landmark studies and medical guidelines recommend that you introduce common allergen foods to your baby, early and often. Introducing these allergens starting in baby’s first year of life can lead to healthier outcomes for your child. Here are 6 specific reasons why you should introduce your baby to allergens.
Landmark studies and medical guidelines recommend that you introduce common allergen foods to your baby, starting in their first year of life.
“Introducing allergens” means consistently feeding babies the foods responsible for the most common childhood food allergies, including:
- Cow’s milk
- Tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, and walnuts)
Introducing these allergens early and oftencan lead to healthier outcomes for your child. Here are 6 specific reasons why you should introduce your baby to allergens early and often.
1. 1 in 13 children will develop a food allergy
Babies aren’t born with food allergies. Rather, food allergies develop over time. And even though babies are at increased risk for food allergies if someone in their immediate family has an allergy, all babies are at risk for food allergies even if they have no family history of allergies.
Today, 1 in 13 children has a food allergy – that’s an average of 2 kids in every classroom. If these children eat even a small amount of a food they’re allergic to, they will develop an allergic reaction that could become severe. But early allergen introduction can help set your child up for a future where they’re free to enjoy all yummy foods without worry.
2. 2 out of 3 babies with severe eczema will develop a food allergy
If your baby has severe eczema, they’re at an increased risk of developing a food allergy. This is because eczema (atopic dermatitis) and food allergies are related conditions. They are both considered “atopic” conditions – conditions that involve reactions in the immune system when someone is exposed to an irritant or allergen.
Research shows that food allergies often develop after someone develops eczema – and the more severe their eczema, the more likely they are to develop food allergies. 2 out of 3 babies with severe eczema will develop a food allergy. So, early allergen introduction is even more important for babies with severe eczema.
3. Peanut, egg, and milk make up 80% of food allergic reactions in children
Peanut, egg, and milk are the three foods most commonly associated with childhood food allergies. Together, allergies to these three foods account for 80% of food allergic reactions in children.
Peanut allergies aren’t outgrown later in life very often. And although any food allergy can cause a severe reaction, peanut allergies are the most likely to cause life-threatening anaphylactic reactions. Concerningly, in recent years, the number of children with a peanut allergy has more than tripled in the US.
Egg and milk allergies are some of the hardest allergies to manage, because these two ingredients show up in so many foods – particularly foods that kids typically enjoy.
- Eggs often show up in mayonnaise, pasta and some breads and battered foods that are brushed with egg wash.
- Milk is an ingredient in yogurt, cheese sandwiches, and cheesy snack crackers.
- And both eggs and milk are usually used in ice cream, pizzas, mac and cheese, birthday cakes, and other types of baked goods.
So, these allergies can have a significant impact on a child’s quality of life. Children with these allergies often end up feeling excluded or left out, since they can’t eat the same foods their peers are eating.
But introducing peanut, egg, and milk products starting in baby’s first year can help your child’s body recognize these foods as just foods, and help set them up for a future of food freedom.
4. Introducing allergens promotes diet diversity
Leading guidelines recommend diet diversity – feeding a wide variety of healthy solids to your baby, including common allergen foods. Feeding a variety of healthy foods equips babies to choose, eat and enjoy these foods as they grow, throughout the rest of their lives.
The USDA Dietary Guidelines affirm that feeding your baby a diverse, nutritious diet, including common allergen foods, is key to developing healthy eating habits.
USDA guidelines recommend “introducing foods across all the food groups,” including a variety of fruits and vegetables, meats, fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy foods, whole grains, nut products and soy products. Many of these foods – eggs, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish, shellfish, and wheat – are common allergens.
But the USDA goes one step further and emphasizes, “Potentially allergenic foods (e.g., peanuts, egg, cow milk products, tree nuts, wheat, crustacean shellfish, fish, and soy) should be introduced” as part of this diverse diet.
Guidance from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) recommends feeding a diverse diet as well. In this guidance, the AAAAI defines diet diversity as “the number of different foods or food groups consumed over a given reference period.”
Common allergy-causing foods – egg and peanut, plus cow’s milk, soy, wheat, tree nuts, sesame, fish, and shellfish – are key in the AAAAI’s definition of a diverse diet. In fact, the AAAAI states that a diverse diet with lots of allergenic foods primes baby’s body for a future of food freedom, where baby can eat these foods throughout the rest of their life.
5. It’s safest to introduce allergens to infants
This study shows that the safest time to introduce allergens is before a baby's first birthday, because babies younger than 1 year old are the least likely to develop a severe allergic reaction.
In the study, infants and toddlers had significantly fewer severe allergic reactions than older children, with infants under age 1 having the fewest severe allergic reactions overall.
And since allergic reactions tend to get more severe as a child gets older, that’s another reason why starting as early as possible is safest for introducing these foods.
According to Dr. Jonathan Spergel (author of this study, and Head of Allergy at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia), "Babies have the fewest severe allergic reactions of any age group, with the severity of allergic reactions increasing as the child gets older.”
6. Landmark studies and medical guidelines recommend introducing allergens early and often, to give baby the best chance at food freedom
Science and medical organizations agree: introducing allergens to your baby early and often can give them the best chance at a healthier future with a life of food freedom.
Introducing allergens starting in baby’s first year is an approach recommended by landmark clinical studies, as well as several sets of medical guidelines.
Previously, the most common approach was to wait 1-3 years to introduce allergens, but this approach wasn't supported by science. Thanks to recent clinical studies, and guidelines based on these studies, we now know that the opposite approach is best.
Results from the landmark LEAP, EAT, and PETIT studies show that introducing allergens to babies, starting before their first birthday, leads to healthier outcomes than delaying allergen feeding.
In these studies, babies were randomly assigned to either consume allergens like peanut and egg regularly, or avoid these allergens completely. All three of these studies’ results showed that early allergen introduction – consuming the foods early and often – gave children the best chance at a life of food freedom.
The LEAP, EAT, and PETIT studies have prompted new medical guidelines supporting the early feeding of allergens. Around the world, several sets of medical guidelines are all in agreement that early allergen introduction is best for babies.
As we noted above, the USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend, “Potentially allergenic foods… should be introduced” to infants.
And most notably, the AAAAI guidelines recommend that “both peanut and egg should be introduced around 6 months of life, but not before 4 months,” and state that consistently feeding peanut and egg is best for promoting food freedom and lifelong healthier outcomes.
Based on the amount of peanut used in the LEAP study, and how often babies were fed peanut in a week during the study, the AAAAI recommends giving babies 2g peanut protein at least 3 times per week.
But the AAAAI guidelines don’t just recommend the early feeding of peanut and egg. They also state that “Other allergens should be introduced around [4-6 months of age] as well” and advise parents and caregivers, “Do not deliberately delay the introduction of other potentially allergenic... foods." This means the AAAAI guidelines also recommend introducing several other common allergens, including cow's milk, tree nuts, sesame, soy, and wheat, in baby’s first year.
An Easy Way to Introduce Allergens
Even though introducing allergens in baby’s first year is extremely important, it can be difficult to measure out and feed these allergens on your own – especially since you need to introduce these allergens in baby-safe ways.
Fortunately, there’s an easier way to introduce allergens and follow these medical guidelines. Ready. Set. Food! is an allergist-developed, bottle-friendly system for consistently introducing allergens to babies. Our daily system gently and safely introduces allergens in pre-measured amounts, to give babies the best chance at food freedom.
With our Stage 1 and Stage 2 Mix-Ins, you can start introducing peanut, egg and milk as early as 4-6 months of age, in line with medical guidelines. And since our Mix-Ins safely dissolve into a bottle of breastmilk or formula, you can introduce allergens to any baby starting as early as 4 months old – even if baby hasn’t started eating solids yet.
When baby starts eating solids consistently, you can start feeding them Stage 3, which regularly introduces babies to 9 top allergens. Stage 3 Mix-Ins mix with your baby’s favorite foods, and introduce three types of tree nuts (cashew, almond and walnut), wheat, soy, and sesame, along with peanut, egg and milk. You can also feed them our Organic Baby Oatmeal, with the same 9 top allergens already inside – it’s another easy, tasty option for babies accustomed to eating solids.
And once your little one has their first birthday (and can chew through a variety of complex textures), you can give them our Organic Oat & Fruit Bars to continue feeding them 8 top allergens and keep promoting diet diversity.
All of our Ready. Set. Food! options are 100% organic and contain no added sugar.
With Ready. Set. Food!, early allergen introduction has never been easier! Give your baby a head start towards a healthier future today.
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