I never thought I’d be one of those parents worrying about food allergies, but less than 3 months into my son’s life and it’s all I could think about. After months of worrying, wondering, and exasperating late night, sleep deprivation-induced Google-searching, he was diagnosed with allergic colitis. It turns out that he couldn’t tolerate dairy, soy, wheat, or eggs. Luckily it’s the type of food allergy that he should grow out of with time. He’s already outgrown his egg and wheat intolerance, so our fingers are crossed that dairy and soy aren’t far behind. However, it’s made me absolutely paranoid about food allergies. Having food intolerances as a baby is one thing, but I’d hate for him to have to deal with full-blown food allergies for the rest of his life.
Navigating the world of starting solid foods with an infant can be complicated and confusing. It’s common for pediatricians to recommend parents hold off on introducing foods that are common allergens, especially peanuts, shellfish, and eggs. Other common allergens include dairy, soy, wheat, fish, and other nuts. The idea is that waiting to give these foods to a baby will help prevent them from developing an allergy.
However, recent research is beginning to show that a better recommendation might be just the opposite: waiting to introduce allergenic foods may contribute to the development of a food allergy.
The American Academy of Pediatrics originally suggested delaying the introduction of cow’s milk until age one, eggs until 2, and and peanuts until 3. Now a new study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice suggests introducing these foods between 4-6 months of age might help reduce the likelihood of an allergic reaction. The proposed rationale for this is that if you wait too long to introduce a specific food to a baby, the body will treat it as a foreign object and attack it, which results in an allergic response. While the exact reason behind these new recommendations hasn’t been concretely pinpointed, there are several theories to consider, including an association between food allergies and low vitamin D levels, and improved hygiene decreasing children’s exposure to germs and therefore interfering the the development of the immune system.
How you choose to feed your children and when you choose to introduce certain foods remains a highly personal decision and should be discussed with a pediatrician, but hopefully these new recommendations will help ease some of the burden we feel as parents worrying about what to feed our kids.