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So bub is ready to enter the world of starting solids- woohoo! What may not feel so exciting is introducing common allergens- we know just how daunting this can feel. That’s why we’re here to spill the beans (and so much more) on why giving your baby a taste of common allergens early on may actually help you in the long run.This blog will explore the importance of early allergen exposure, and take you through step by step on how to safely expose your baby to these foods, without breaking a sweat!
Your baby’s first few months are a critical time for their immune system. It’s beginning to grow and develop, and get stronger and stronger as the weeks go by. But sometimes it doesn’t agree with certain things.
Think of your baby’s immune system as a bodyguard for their body. It’s great for keeping an eye on its environment and making sure everything stays in check, and for kicking any nasties out!
For some babies, certain foods aren’t invited to the party- making the bodyguard (their immune system) work overtime. An allergic reaction is the body’s way of kicking out the bad guys! Certain chemicals are sent out in the body which can cause reactions like hives, swelling of the lips and/or tongue, stomach pain or changes in bowel movements.
Quite simply, in the case of food allergies, the body sees a harmless food as a threat and works in a way to protect itself.
Food allergies are most commonly developed by the time a child is 5 years old, but can occur at any stage of life. In Australia about 10% of infants will develop a food allergy, for one reason or another. The exact cause of allergies is unknown but we’ll unpack the best way to prevent allergies further on.
The most common food allergies are cow’s milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, sesame and soy. For babies with food allergies, consuming the allergen in any form or amount can cause a reaction.
Some good news though- a lot of children outgrow allergies to cow’s milk, egg, soy or wheat. On the other hand, allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds and seafood tend to hang around.
The idea of waiting until later months to introduce common allergenic foods (“just to be safe”) is so OLD NEWS. Instead, the latest research is showing that when it comes to offering your baby common allergens, the earlier is actually better.
While the main cause of allergies is unknown, delayed introduction to allergens has been proposed as a possible explanation.
Introducing your baby to the common food allergies right from the get go on their solids journey is the BEST way at reducing their risk of developing a food allergy. Think of it as giving their immune system a little heads up on what’s cool and what’s not.
To set your baby on the right track, you can begin introducing the common food allergens from the beginning of their solids journey. You want to aim to have introduced them all by 12 months of age, for the best chance of reducing their risk of developing an allergy.
Like mentioned before, your baby’s first 12 months are so important for developing a strong immune system. The earlier you expose them to potential allergens, the better their immune system will become at handling them.
Now there’s a step by step procedure on how to safely expose your baby to the common food allergens, and we’re going to walk you through it.
Start one by one
Just like introducing any new food to your baby, it’s a great idea to only offer one new food at a time. The common food allergens should never be introduced with another new food. This can help monitor and pinpoint any reactions to particular foods.
Because delayed reactions can occur (yes that means adding ‘look out for allergic reactions for a couple of days’ onto your never ending to do list), it’s best to wait a couple of days in between introducing new allergens. We wouldn’t recommend introducing two in the same week (no one needs that extra stress!)
Third time’s a charm
You can safely say your baby isn’t allergic to a common allergen once they have been exposed to it three times without any reaction.
Slow and steady wins the race
Introducing your baby to food allergens is no race. You want to start slow with small amounts and then gradually build your way up. This will look like:
Day 1 (Step 1): Rub a small amount of the food on the inside of their mouth. If there is no immediate reaction within a couple of minutes, you can continue onto step 2. If you do notice a reaction, do not give your baby that food again until you have sought advice from your doctor.
Day 1 (Step 2): If there was no reaction from the first exposure, mix ¼ teaspoon of the allergen into a previously tolerated puree. Watch for any reaction.
Day 2: Increase the portion to ½ teaspoon on day 2 and watch for any reactions.
Day 3: If still no reaction, increase the allergen portion to 1 teaspoon and watch for any reactions. If your baby has no reaction after 3 exposures to an allergen, you can assume they are not allergic to this food.
Don’t set and forget
Introducing allergens isn’t just a checkbox activity. It’s not a matter of introducing them to your baby, making sure they’re not allergic and then never giving them that food again.
In fact, research is showing that introducing your baby to a food allergen and then not incorporating it into their diet regularly may actually CAUSE a food allergy developing. Crazy right?!?
Once you are confident that bub is not allergic to a common food allergen, it’s best to make it part of their regular diet. Twice a week is a good aim.
Offer allergens in age appropriate forms
While their immune system may be ready for some hard work, your baby’s digestive system probably isn’t quite ready for the big stuff. When introducing allergens, it’s safest to offer them in forms that match your baby’s developmental stage.
For example; to offer tree nuts and peanuts, don’t go offering whole nuts or nut pieces- that screams CHOKING RISK! Instead you can use nut spreads or nut flours mixed into tolerated purees or porridge.
Also note: when testing tree nuts, be sure to test them all individually one by one.
For step by step examples on how to actually introduce your baby to each of the common allergens, check out one our earlier blogs here: How to Introduce Each of the 9 Food Allergens to Your Baby
Introducing common food allergens to your baby is no easy feat- it requires a lot of time, attention and organisation. Luckily, Nourishing Bubs can take some of that planning and stress off your shoulders. Nourishing Bub’s Allergen Introduction range includes an Allergen Intro Pack complete with all the common food allergens in powder form (saving you the hassle of grinding up 10 different types of nuts individually!). It also includes an Allergen Intro Chart Magnet to help you easily track your baby’s exposures and any reactions, as well as an eBook created by paediatric dietitian and Nourishing Bubs founder Olivia Bates, packed with all the information you’ll need to safely and confidently introduce allergens to your baby. If you want to get your hands on a pack today, don’t wait, and order yours today: https://www.nourishingbubs.com/collections/allergen-introduction
So you’ve trialled all the allergens and your baby’s had no reactions, what’s next?
Well the best thing you can do to try and avoid your baby developing a food allergy in the future, is to keep feeding them the allergens regularly. We’re talking at least twice a week.
There’s no specific amount to aim for but once your baby can tolerate a teaspoon amount, you can gradually increase the portion as they grow.
Now that may be easier said than done (we’re looking at you all 9 tree nuts!)
Nourishing Bubs’ newest product Tree Nut Maintenance Mix means you no longer have to play mental gymnastics to remember which nuts your baby’s had this week or not. Designed to maintain tolerance to all 9 tree nuts, this product contains almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios, and pine nuts all in a finely ground form together. Perfect to add to any smoothies, baked goods, cereals or purees! To save yourself from grinding endless amounts of nuts and racking your brain over which one you forgot to offer this week, get your hands on Nourishing Bubs’ newest hero in the allergen introduction world: https://www.nourishingbubs.com/collections/allergen-introduction/products/copy-of-allergen-intro-pack
Here’s how you can maintain tolerance of the other common allergens:
So there you have it- a complete rundown on all things allergens and how you can reduce your baby’s risk of developing a food allergy. By offering your baby early exposure to the common food allergens, not only are you increasing their menu and widening their taste preferences and acceptance, you’re also making a big impact on their immune system. While their taste buds run wild, you can be rest assured that you’re helping them in the best way possible.
If introducing allergens still seems daunting or too much of a mental game for you, let Nourishing Bubs help you along the way. You can view and shop the range where you’ll find:
You can find all that and more here: https://www.nourishingbubs.com/collections/all