As parents, you want what’s best for your child from day one. It can be overwhelming to keep up with the latest childhood growth and development recommendations, but our team of pediatric experts at St. Elizabeth Physicians has your family covered.
Benefits of Early Food Introduction
As your infant grows into a smiling, chatty baby, many parents wonder when to introduce food to their little ones – specifically potentially allergy-inducing foods.
Previous guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recognized that introducing common food allergens does not increase the risk of an allergic reaction. However, a new study published by the AAP now promotes the early introduction of infant-safe peanut products.
“The evidence that we may be able to protect our children against peanut allergies by intentionally introducing infant-safe peanuts before the age of six months old seems to be growing,” says Dr. Philip Hartman, family medicine physician at St. Elizabeth Physicians. “For low-risk children, studies are consistent in showing that early introduction is generally safe and does not increase the risk of food allergies.”
However, for high-risk children – those with severe eczema or a known egg allergy – introducing infant-safe peanut products should be done in a specific and detailed manner.
Expert Advice for Parents
Introducing any foods – not just potential allergy-inducing foods – to babies should be discussed with your child’s physician, they will be able to determine your child’s level of allergy risk (high, moderate or average) and make suggestions on the safest forms and methods in which to introduce foods. They will also evaluate the baby for allergy-related conditions like eczema.
Dr. Hartman suggests the following tips for parents considering early food introduction for their baby:
- Learn – review your child’s allergy history and find out your child’s risk category from your child’s physician.
- Choose an infant-safe product to introduce – most studies used peanut butter as a way to introduce peanut products between four and six months of age.
- Begin to offer your baby complimentary foods – breast milk or formula can exclusively provide all the nutrients a baby needs; however, introducing complementary foods helps to teach motor skills. In some foods studied, it may even reduce the allergy risk to that specific food.
Pregnancy and Allergies: Is there a Connection?
During pregnancy, many mothers wonder if eating – or abstaining – from certain foods can help to lower their child’s risk of allergies.
“There is no evidence that avoiding specific high-allergy foods during pregnancy or while nursing provides any benefit in reducing your baby’s risk of food allergies,” says Dr. Hartman.
While there isn’t a link between pregnancy and allergies, there does seem to be a connection between breastfeeding and lowering your child’s risk of having skin issues or wheezy breathing. Children who are breastfed exclusively for the first three to four months experience less eczema and a lower chance of developing asthma later on in childhood. Even if exclusively breastfeeding your baby isn’t an option, studies have promoted benefits for incorporating any level breastfeeding into your baby’s diet.
For more information on the important topic of childhood food allergies, please call (800) 737-7900 to schedule an appointment with a primary care provider at St. Elizabeth Physicians.