Top 5 Food Allergy Myths, Busted!
Ahh, motherhood. As a mom of three, I can attest that absolutely nothing can prepare you for the unbelievably sweet snuggles, the middle-of-the-night feedings, the way your heart feels like it suddenly beats outside of your body, and how long the days and how short the years can feel…the list goes on and on. What I was *not* prepared for: the increased anxiety and fears that creep in after you welcome a little one, from SIDS, feeding and nap schedules, and developmental milestones concerns to cold and flu seasons, choking hazards, when can they eat peanut butter, water safety...what don’t we worry about as new moms and dads!?
Well, I’m here to help ease your concerns around one specific topic: food allergies. As a new mom, it wasn’t really on my radar. But as a former journalist, I’m a researcher at heart and I’ve been learning everything there is to know for a LONG time – my now-teenage daughter is allergic to most tree nuts, and in the decade since her food allergy diagnosis at age 3, so much has changed when it comes to feeding guidelines and the possibility of prevention. In fact, Mission MightyMe co-founder Dr. Gideon Lack’s groundbreaking research in 2015 – which found most peanut allergies could actually be avoided with early peanut introduction – inspired our lightbulb moment for this company: we knew there needed to be an easier and safer way to introduce nuts early and with less stress (because we all know busy parents have more than enough going on already!).
Let’s bust these common myths.
Babies are born with food allergies.
Avoid introducing common allergens to babies for the first few years of life.
One-and-done exposure is all it takes to check the box for early allergen introduction.
Avoiding eating peanuts during pregnancy, or while breastfeeding, helps prevent your baby from developing food allergies.
Food allergies aren’t serious.
Gimme the facts!
Here’s what IS true: many food allergies can be prevented, which is amazing news for everyone and a fact I wish I had known when my kids were babies. It means we can be proactive. Keep these three main takeaways in mind…
- Check with your pediatrician to make sure your little one is ready. Talk to your pediatrician about whether your baby is ready for early allergen introduction so you can get started ASAP! Most babies are ready for baby-safe forms of peanut and other common allergens when they start solid foods, around 4-6 months, though current guidelines recommend that high-risk babies undergo allergy testing first. Remember, never feed your baby a food to which they are already allergic.
- Early, often and ongoing is key. Remember, research shows that nearly 90% of peanut allergies can be prevented by starting peanut foods in the first year of life and eating them regularly until age 5. The “regularly” part is key in that equation! The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends serving 2 grams of peanut protein, 3 times per week for high-risk infants, for a total of 6 grams peanut protein weekly.*
- We only know what we know right now. Like all science, research is constantly evolving in the food allergy field. I love the Maya Angelou quote, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better. Do better.” This applies to so many parenting challenges. Do your best with what you know, follow the science as much as you can, and give yourself grace as a new parent starting your feeding journey.
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Spread the word about peanut allergy prevention!
Lastly, did you know that although 93% of pediatrician respondents were aware of the latest early introduction prevention guidelines, only 29% were fully implementing them with patients?
And only about one in 20 caregiver responders said they introduced peanuts before age 6 months, with 44% stating that their children still had not had peanuts introduced to their diets by age 12 months?
These are staggering stats to think about, especially considering leading health organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services and the United States Department of Agriculture, have all changed their guidelines in the last decade.
Knowledge is power and prevention is everything when there’s no cure – and now that you’ve read this, you’re officially “the smart friend” on your text thread! So spread the word with your mom tribe and share our Early Allergen Introduction Guide and Early Allergen Introduction Checklist, available as free online resources. Your mama friends – and their little ones – will thank you.
Have more questions about food allergies that we didn’t cover? We recommend checking out Baby’s First by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), a non-profit that educates, funds research and advocates on behalf of the 32 million Americans experiencing food allergies. Prevent Peanut Allergies by the National Peanut Board is also an excellent resource.
*FDA HEALTH CLAIM: For babies with an increased risk of peanut allergy (babies with severe eczema, egg allergy or both), introducing age-appropriate, peanut-containing foods as early as 4 months may reduce the risk of developing a peanut allergy. Caregivers should check with the baby’s healthcare provider before feeding the baby peanut-containing foods.
If you have any questions about what you’re feeding your baby, always consult your pediatrician.