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You may want your baby to inherit your humor, your hair color, or your ability to play the harmonica like a boss, but one thing you likely don't want for your child is for them to inherit your food allergies. After all, if both parents have allergies, the chances of baby developing allergies as well is thought to range from 60 to 80 percent. Unfortunately, even if there is no family history of food allergy, your baby might not get off scot-free, as not all food allergies are genetic. It is estimated that 12 percent of children who develop a food allergy have no family history of allergy. Experts suggest that one in 13 kids in the US have a food allergy. Having a food allergy can lead to symptoms like difficulty breathing, rash, vomiting, and potentially death if a triggering food is eaten. Being a parent of a child with a food allergy can be a huge source of stress for all family members.
While so many things about your baby are out of your control — like the timing of their poopy diapers — you may be able to possibly reduce the risk of baby developing food allergies simply by making some dietary choices once baby is ready to eat solid food.
The most common food allergies in children in the United States include cow's milk, hen's egg, soy, wheat, peanut, tree nuts (like almonds, cashews, and pistachios, to name a few), and seafood (shellfish and fish). Sesame allergy is common as well, and prevalence is increasing. While instinct may tell you to avoid these foods so an allergy isn't triggered, experts are suggesting the exact opposite.
Instead of avoidance, expert panels are now suggesting that the key to increasing the tolerance of food allergens and possibly reducing the risk of developing allergies is regular and early exposure to these proteins (remember that allergies are triggered by proteins in foods) during a "critical early window" of development. This "critical early window" is said to be between 4 and 6 months of life, according to pediatric allergists.
There are plenty of studies that support this theory. In one study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, feeding six potentially allergenic foods (egg, milk, sesame, white fish, peanut, and wheat) to healthy breastfed babies as young as 3 months of age reduced food allergy development by two-thirds in those able to feed multiple times a week for three years.
In 2019, the American Academy of Pediatrics went as far as to state that infants at high risk (i.e. both parents have an allergy) should be fed peanut food at age 4 to 6 months after considering testing first for peanut allergy. Of course, if a baby or child has a confirmed allergy, the triggering protein should be avoided.
So, how are you supposed to introduce these proteins to your toothless infant with minimal fine motor skills and limited knowledge of the art of chewing? A shrimp and peanut stir-fry topped with sesame seeds sounds out of the question for early and frequent exposure. Thankfully, some brilliant companies have created products that help support parents' efforts of exposing your little peanut to peanuts (and other common allergens). Read on to shop them!