If there was a chance you could prevent or reduce your child’s risk of developing food allergies would you do it? Pioneering food allergy studies are changing guidelines on infant feeding. As you may know, my toddler has a severe food allergy which I have discussed here. When I found out I was expecting my youngest, one of the thoughts that flooded my mind was “What if he has food allergies too?” A trip to the allergist with my toddler only stressed me out more. For months, I thought about first foods and what approach I was going to take with my youngest. Today, I am discussing our experience with Early Allergen Introduction.
One of the reasons I decided to write about this is because SO many moms get their information from the internet and social media. Baby led weaning (BLW) seems to be the hot topic when it comes to infant feeding. BLW typically starts at 6 months and skips traditional cereals and pureed foods instead waiting until baby is ready to self-feed. In comparison to BLW, very little discussion is being done on Early Allergen Introduction (EAI). I’m curious, have you heard of it?
What Is Early Allergen Introduction?
In 2000, the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics was that high-risk children avoid peanuts until 3 years old. The groundbreaking Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study found that early introduction of peanuts to children as young as 4-6 months rather than avoiding peanuts drastically decreased the prevalence of peanut allergies by 81% (1). Additional studies have been conducted on other allergenic foods. These new studies prompted NIAID to change their feeding guidelines in 2017. Children are placed into a low, moderate or high risk category. High risk children may need additional testing and introduction of potentially allergenic foods in a healthcare setting versus at home (2). This is why it is imperative to discuss with your pediatrician if EAI is right for your child prior to beginning.
My Experience with EAI
As a mom who has witnessed one of my children go into anaphylaxis, my initial reaction to EAI was a strong NO. That was driven by fear. Fear of a reaction in such a young child, fear of bringing allergens into the house and fear of what if I had to deal with two children with different food allergies. For months, I didn’t think I could bring myself to do it. In the week leading up to Baby B’s 4 month appointment I did extensive research on EAI and its potential benefits. Finally, I changed my mindset and decided that ANY potential reduction in risk of a food allergy would be worth it. I decided it would be selfish to not follow the latest research out of my own fear. At Baby B’s 4 month appointment my pediatrician recommended we start introducing foods and that based on B’s risk level it would be safe to do at home. He welcomed me to come back if we ran into any problems.
Before starting EAI, have an idea of what you will do in case of an emergency. I had children’s Benadryl on hand with the recommended dose from my pediatrician in case any significant reactions developed. Be familiar with all the possible signs and symptoms of a food allergy reaction. There are many new products available to help you introduce potentially allergenic foods to your baby. I personally decided I was most comfortable with introducing one potentially allergenic food at a time.
Baby B started food at 4 months + 1 week (after his pediatrician appointment). This is the list in order of foods introduced. I introduced one food at a time and typically waited 2 days before introducing anything new. This was what I was comfortable with as a mom but, recommendations seem to be changing in this area towards decreasing time between foods.
- Pureed Banana
- Beech Nut Oatmeal Cereal
- Pureed Apples
- Pureed Pears (Beech Nut)
- Pear and Egg
- Apples and Pumpkin (Beech Nut)
- Apples and Peanut
- Pureed Mango (Beech Nut)
It was such a tremendous relief after multiple trials of a peanut containing product with no reaction. In my personal opinion, peanut allergy seems like one of the most difficult to manage. Baby B typically eats 1-2 times per day right now. Somedays he is very interested in food and others he takes a few bites and loses interest. Overall, I am happy that I overcame my fears and did early allergen introduction with Baby B.
What are your thoughts on Early Allergen Introduction? Did your pediatrician discuss it with you? Want to know more about EAI and our feeding journey, I’d love to discuss below or over on Instagram.
Want to read more about Early Allergen Introduction? I’ve linked some great articles on the topic from trusted sources below.
- 10 Things to Know About the LEAP Studies
- Preventing Food Allergies
- Early Introduction of Foods to Prevent Food Allergy
- Addendum Guidelines for the Prevention of Peanut Allergy in the United States
- Preventing Food Allergies. Retrieved March 2019, from https://www.foodallergy.org/life-with-food-allergies/food-allergy-101/preventing-food-allergies.
- Chan, E. S., Abrams, E. M., Hildebrand, K. J., & Watson, W. (2018). Early introduction of foods to prevent food allergy. Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology, 14(S2). doi:10.1186/s13223-018-0286-1.