September is Baby Safety Month, and Ready. Set. Food! is committed to helping you keep your baby safe inside and outside of the home.
As landmark studies and recent medical guidelines recommend, introducing common allergens, like peanut, egg, milk, and tree nuts, is key to setting your baby up for a healthier future.
But how to introduce allergens safely? Today, we’ve got you covered with our list of dos and don’ts, including several common mistakes to avoid when introducing allergens.
As recent medical guidelines recommend, feeding babies common allergens, like peanut, egg, milk, and tree nuts, is key to setting your baby up for healthier outcomes.
1 in 13 children has a food allergy, but babies aren’t born with food allergies – they develop over time. And all babies are at risk for food allergies, regardless of their family allergy history.
Landmark studies and current medical guidelines recommend early allergen introduction (the early feeding of common allergens) to promote a healthy future of food freedom.
But how to introduce allergens safely? Today, we’ve got you covered with our list of dos and don’ts, including recommendations from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI). We’re starting with the common mistakes to avoid when introducing allergens.
The Don’ts: 8 Common Mistakes To Avoid
When introducing allergens, keep baby safe by avoiding these don’ts:
- Don’t wait too long to introduce allergens
- Don’t introduce whole nuts
- Don’t introduce any chunky peanut butter or tree nut butter
- Don’t feed baby unmodified smooth nut butters
- Don’t feed baby nut butters in lumps
- Don’t offer cow’s milk as a drink to babies under 1 year of age
- Don’t offer cubed cheese to introduce milk
- Don’t introduce any foods with added sugars
Don’t wait too long to introduce allergens – introducing early is key.
Previously, people thought that waiting 1-3 years to introduce allergens was the best approach. But this wasn’t backed by science.
Recent studies and medical guidelines have shown us that the opposite approach is best for fostering healthier outcomes for children later in life. Introducing allergens during baby’s first year is now recommended, instead of delaying allergen feeding.
In fact, one study has also shown that before age 1 is the safest time to introduce allergens, as severe allergic reactions are least common in babies younger than 1 year old.
Early introduction is especially important with peanut and egg. In their new set of guidelines for introducing allergens to babies and young children, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) recommends, “peanut and egg should be introduced around 6 months of life, but not before 4 months.” To set baby up for a healthier future of food freedom, be sure to introduce safe forms of peanut and egg early – starting at 4 months of age. Don’t wait!
Don’t introduce whole nuts.
Although it’s important to introduce peanut early, there are several forms of peanut that are unsafe for babies (and toddlers). Whole peanuts and tree nuts are choking hazards for young children, and shouldn’t be fed to any child under the age of 4. Peanut and tree nut powders, where the nuts are very finely ground, are a safe alternative.
Don’t introduce any chunky peanut butter or tree nut butter.
Chunky nut butters are also choking hazards. The hard pieces of nuts inside make chunky nut butters unsafe for kids under the age of 4.
Don’t feed baby unmodified smooth nut butters.
Smooth nut butters that come right out of the container, and that aren’t modified, are yet another choking hazard.
Never feed baby unmodified smooth peanut butter or unmodified smooth tree nut butter. They pose a choking risk for children under age 4 because they are too lumpy. Instead, you’ll need to water down smooth nut butters before you feed them to baby.
Don’t feed baby nut butters in lumps.
Similarly, nut butter straight from a spoon is too lumpy for a young child, and poses a choking hazard. According to the NIAID, “Peanut butter directly from a spoon or in lumps/dollops should not be given to children less than 4 years of age.” Once you mix a smooth nut butter together with water, though, you can feed that mixture to baby from the spoon.
Don’t offer cow’s milk as a drink to babies under 1 year of age.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), you should never give baby cow’s milk to drink during baby’s first year of life. This is because cow’s milk can’t match the nutritional value of breastmilk or formula for babies.
However, it’s perfectly fine to introduce cow’s milk by feeding baby solid dairy foods before age one. Dairy foods supplement breastmilk or formula rather than replacing it.
Don’t offer cubed cheese to introduce milk.
Never feed baby cheese in cubes, as block or cubed cheese is a choking hazard. Instead, if you’d like to give baby cheese, offer it in long, ruler-thin slices (or in shredded pieces) to help prevent choking.
Don’t introduce any foods with added sugars.
According to the current U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dietary Guidelines, children under 2 years of age should not consume any added sugars. So, when introducing allergens, avoid foods that contain added sugar at all costs.
Many types of milks, yogurts, peanut puffs, and peanut butters contain hidden added sugars. It’s vital to read the labels carefully before feeding any product to baby.
Ready. Set. Food! introduces 9 top allergens to babies, with no added sugar.
The Dos: 9 Essentials To Remember
Keep these key points in mind to safely introduce allergens in line with medical guidelines:
- Do introduce allergens consistently
- Do introduce a variety of allergens to baby
- Do make sure baby is developmentally ready
- Do introduce allergens when baby is healthy
- Do monitor baby for at least 2 hours after you feed them common allergens
- Do thin out smooth nut butters, if you’d like to give baby peanut butter or tree nut butter
- Do consider nut powders or nut flours
- Do offer cow’s milk in food form
- Do make sure any egg you feed baby is well-cooked
Do introduce allergens consistently.
The AAAAI guidelines recognize that consistently feeding peanut and egg is best for promoting healthier outcomes, as demonstrated by landmark clinical studies on introducing allergens early. When it comes to introducing peanut, the AAAAI recommends feeding baby 2 grams of peanut protein at least three times per week.
Do introduce top allergens (not just peanut) to baby.
The AAAAI guidelines don’t just recommend early peanut and egg introduction. They also recommend that “Other allergens should be introduced around [4-6 months of age].” In addition, they emphasize to parents and caregivers, “Do not deliberately delay the introduction of other potentially allergenic... foods." Based on these guidelines, you should also introduce allergens like milk, tree nuts, wheat, soy, and sesame to babies in their first year of life.
Do make sure baby is developmentally ready.
If you plan to introduce allergens as solids, make sure that baby is developmentally ready for solid foods before you start. They must have good head and neck control, sit up with little to no support, open their mouth when food is offered, and no longer have the tongue-thrusting reflex (which pushes food out of their mouth if they are not developmentally ready for it).
What if baby is not ready for solids at 4-6 months of age, the key window to introduce peanut and egg? You can always use Ready. Set. Food! to introduce peanut, egg, and milk. Ready. Set. Food! safely mixes with a bottle of breastmilk or formula. So, it lets you introduce these allergens to any baby, as early as 4 months of age, even before they’re ready for solids.
Do introduce allergens only when baby is healthy.
If baby is sick or otherwise not feeling well, wait until they are feeling better before feeding them common allergens for the first time. You should also wait if baby is teething or has just had their vaccinations.
Do monitor baby for at least 2 hours after you feed them common allergens.
Always closely monitor baby for at least 2 hours after introducing peanut, tree nuts, or other common allergens, to make sure baby doesn’t develop allergic reaction symptoms. If a reaction develops, immediately stop feeding baby the food that caused the reaction, and talk to your pediatrician.
Do thin out smooth nut butters, if you’d like to give baby peanut butter or tree nut butter.
The only safe way to feed baby peanut butter or tree nut butter is to thin out smooth nut butter with water. The AAAAI recommends “diluted peanut butter” as one baby-safe way to introduce peanut. And the NIAID also recommends “thinned smooth peanut butter.”
Do consider nut powders or nut flours.
The AAAAI recommends peanut powders and flours as another safe way to introduce peanut to babies. As they state in their new guidelines, “peanut-containing products, such as powders/flours… have also been used as safe forms of peanut for infants.” Peanut and tree nut powders are a safe way to introduce nuts, as the nuts are ground down finely enough so they don’t pose a choking hazard.
All of our Ready. Set. Food! products help you safely and easily introduce peanut and tree nut to your baby in powder form, following the AAAAI guidelines. You can also introduce peanut and tree nut with our Organic Baby Oatmeal.
Do offer cow’s milk in food form.
As we mentioned above, it’s safe to introduce cow’s milk as a food (not a drink) before baby’s first birthday, because this supplements breastmilk or formula rather than replacing it.
Some baby-safe ways to introduce cow’s milk include milk powder mixed into baby’s other foods, plain yogurt with no added sugar, or slices/shredded pieces of soft cheese made with whole milk.
Do make sure any egg you feed baby is well-cooked.
To keep baby safe, make sure any egg you feed them is cooked well, with all shells removed. You can mix cooked egg powder with baby’s food, or bake egg into healthy baked goods (just avoid adding sugars). You could also try giving baby scrambled egg pieces. Keep in mind, though, that many young babies have trouble eating scrambled eggs. Given this, egg powder is usually the most reliable way to introduce egg to your little one.
Ready. Set. Food!: An Easier Way To Safely Introduce Allergens
Babies can be picky eaters, so feeding them common allergens early and consistently can be tricky. Fortunately, Ready. Set. Food! makes it easier to introduce baby to allergens in their first year, following recent medical guidelines.
Ready. Set. Food! is an allergist-developed, powder-based system that helps you consistently feed allergens to your little one. Our daily system safely and gently introduces allergens in pre-measured amounts, to set babies up for a healthy future of food freedom.
Our Stage 1 and Stage 2 Mix-Ins let you start feeding baby peanut, egg and milk as early as 4-6 months of age, in line with recent medical guidelines. Plus, they’re bottle-friendly – they safely mix into a bottle of breastmilk or formula, so you can start introducing allergens to any baby as early as 4 months (even if they aren’t yet ready for solids.)
Once baby is consistently eating solids, you can start giving them Stage 3, which continually introduces babies to 9 top allergens. Stage 3 Mix-Ins mix with food and introduce baby to tree nuts (almond, walnut, and cashew), wheat, soy, and sesame, along with peanut, egg and milk.
We also offer Organic Baby Oatmeal with the same 9 top allergens already mixed in, as another easy option for babies who are confidently eating solids.
All of these options are also 100% organic.
With Ready. Set. Food!, early allergen introduction has never been easier! Give your baby a head start towards food freedom today.
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