Go feed your infant peanuts right now.

(Okay, maybe not right now.)

But read these new recommendations on food allergies.

Recently we took T to the doctor. We have already started solid foods, and went with infant oatmeal, sweet potatoes, bananas, peas, and prunes (you know, to keep things…regular). These have been a smash hit so far, evidenced by the smashing he does with them all over his face. Adorable, but messy. At this visit, though, one of the doctor’s recommended that we start the allergy-potential foods right away. Dairy, soy, eggs, and peanuts were all to be introduced as soon as possible. Why? Apparently, the new science supports early introduction as a way to prevent food allergies. Especially in the case of peanuts, as evidenced in the new LEAP study. Yes, I was as surprised as you probably are. T is not even close to a year old yet, and I thought these items were way down the line.

Doctors now suspect that avoidance of these foods actually increases risk of development of food allergies. This explains why there are so many children in a particular age range right now that have so many food allergies. Growing up, this was practically unheard of. There might have been one or two kids I ever knew with one food allergy. Now it seems there are a ton! Peanut-free schools are very common. I had always wondered what was causing the rash of children with these sensitivities (see what I did there?).

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But why? In the recent years, many doctors suggested that high-risk foods were avoided in children, especially those at high-risk for food allergies. The high-risk kids were those who have a family history of food allergies or those with eczema. Well, one study that was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice suggest that children who have food-triggered eczema and who avoid the trigger foods are actually at higher risk for developing permanent allergies, and that there are certain limitations to the predictability of blood-test results.

What does all this mean? Basically, if your kid has eczema or sensitive skin and develops a flare-up after eating a particular food—say, dairy, for example- and you therefore avoid giving it to him/her, it is more likely that s/he will not be able to tolerate in the future. By avoiding the food completely instead of working through these skin flares, parents can inadvertently decrease tolerance to these foods and increase risk of immediate [anaphylactic] reactions. If your kid doesn’t have eczema but you are afraid of food reactions and don’t give your kid dairy, soy, wheat, eggs, or nuts until a few years old, the time frame of immune acceptance will have passed and s/he will be more likely to have developed an allergy.

Crazy, right? All of this goes to underscore one of the main facts I’ve learned as a parent thus far: recommendations are constantly changing. It also depends on who you ask. It also depends on your doctor. My doctor recommended we avoid rice-based cereal because of the reports of high levels of arsenic, and instead go directly to infant oatmeal cereal. Another mom friend’s doctor told her to avoid oatmeal cereal because it contains wheat, and go for the less-allergenic rice cereal. Another person, another answer.

So what is a mom to do? The best thing you can do is to be informed. Do your research, but do it responsibly. Be careful of who your sources are. You want to ensure you are educated from academically credible sources, not opinion sites (which is why I am linking what I am talking about, as you shouldn’t just take my word for it). The next equally best thing to do is talk to your doctor and work with him or her on a plan for your child. They will likely not start your baby on these types of foods right away, but may suggest earlier introduction as oppose when your child is over a year old or older.

So far, we have been successful with peanuts and dairy (in the form of yogurt. Babies shouldn’t have whole milk. Who knew?). How does one even begin to introduce these foods? At the guidance of the doctor, I bought peanut powder, which contains only peanuts as the ingredient, and mixed it with breastmilk. I started with a really small amount of powder, and gradually increased it. You could do the same with water, if you’re not breastfeeding. I was instructed to add one new food only for three days, monitoring for immediate signs of reaction (hives, swelling, coughing) for the first 10-15 minutes after consumption. T looked pretty thug life trying his first peanuts: shirtless, in little pants and a beanie (for warmth, obviously). I gave it more than three days though, to oblige my own paranoia.

Next we bought plain, unflavored yogurt, and did the same process, except I mixed it with prunes or bananas to add some sweetness back—plain yogurt is so bitter and blah. Eggs are next, which I plan to scramble and put in the food processor so it is not so chunky. Hopefully we will be able to transition T to formula so I can have my boobs, my diet, and some [limited] freedom back. Fingers crossed!!

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, I am a blogger (duh), albeit a very educated one. This means my writing does not constitute medical advice for your child. Consult your doctor before beginning any new food regimen for your child. I am not responsible if you go ham on food introductions before your baby is ready. Ha! Ham.

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