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How to Feed Your Baby to Prevent Food Allergies


If you're like many parents, you may be nervous that your baby will develop a food allergy. While in the past we used to tell parents to avoid introducing allergens like peanut until a baby's first birthday, we now know that we had it exactly wrong. For example, studies have consistently shown that the best way to prevent peanut allergy is to offer peanut early (between 4-6 months) and often (at least 3 days per week) and freely consume peanut and peanut products during pregnancy and while breastfeeding (provided you do not have a peanut allergy).

Egg and peanut are top food allergens in infancy. How do you prevent food allergies? Early introduction of egg and peanut. This is especially important for infants at high risk of food allergies (such as infants with moderate to severe eczema or a personal history of food allergy). Other risk factors include mild eczema, a sibling with food allergy, or family history of allergic conditions like eczema or asthma). Learning Early About Peanut (LEAP) clinical trial showed that offering at least 6 grams of peanut protein given over 3 or more meals per week, decreased the risk of peanut allergy substantially. Only 3 percent of babies at high risk of peanut allergy who regularly consumed peanut developed allergy by age 5 (compared to 17% of babies who avoided peanut).

So what does this mean for you?

Incorporate allergens into your baby’s diet freely. Start around 6 months and make sure your baby has tried peanut and egg well before their first birthday.

Introducing Peanut

Offer at least 6-7 grams of peanut protein per week over the course of at least 3 meals or snacks per week. Don’t offer your baby a whole peanut as it is a choking hazard. Instead try out these few easy and safe ways to regularly include peanut in your baby’s diet:

· 1/2 tablespoon of peanut butter (all natural, no added ingredients), creamy, thinned with breast milk, formula, or water, smeared on a cracker or piece of bread – 2g peanut protein

· 1/2 tablespoon of peanut butter mixed with baby cereal - 2g peanut protein

· 1/2 tablespoon of peanut butter thinned with water/breastmilk/formula mixed in with mashed bananas – 2g peanut protein.

· 1 tablespoon peanuts, finely crushed – 4g peanut protein

Introducing Egg

Introduce egg as either scrambled egg or mashed up hard boiled egg. Be sure to include the egg white. Serving size is about 1/3 of an egg.

Infants at lower risk of allergy may only need to have the allergenic foods 1 time per week to reduce risk whereas those at higher risk should have the allergens 2-3 times per week.

If your infant develops signs of an allergy such as hives, schedule a visit with your child's pediatrician prior to offering the allergen again. If your infant develops a more severe allergic response such as vomiting, swelling, severe cough or difficulty breathing, seek medical help right away or call 911.

For more on feeding your baby solids, check out How to Raise Healthy Eaters: Starting Solids.


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