Introducing different foods into your baby’s diet can be a stressful process. We all aim to provide the best possible start in life for our children, and establishing a nutritious and wholesome diet is an important part of this effort. Over time, significant changes have been made to how we introduce allergenic foods to infants. These changes have also brought many misconceptions and myths surrounding allergenic food introduction. Some of the most common myths are detailed and debunked below.
Myth #1: “I should avoid introducing peanut until my child is 3 years old.”
This advice used to be relevant for peanut introduction, but has recently changed. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) currently recommends early peanut introduction for the majority of infants at around 6 months of age. Some high-risk infants diagnosed with an egg allergy or severe eczema will require allergy testing before introduction. This advice is based on a recent research study (the “LEAP”) which showed that early peanut introduction between 4-11 months of age (not before 4 months) might prevent development of a peanut allergy. Peanuts should be introduced in an age-appropriate form, and whole nuts should be avoided due to choking risk. Breastfeeding is also advised for the infant’s first 6 months of life, alongside allergenic food introduction.
Myth #2: “One of my children already has a peanut allergy, so my new infant will also be allergic.”
In fact, a peanut allergy is not inherited this way. The risk of a new baby having a peanut allergy when another peanut-allergic child is already at home is very low, approximately 5-7 percent. It’s important to discuss ways to safely introduce peanut to the new baby without putting the other sibling at risk. Your pediatrician and/or allergist can help with this, alongside any other concerns you might have.
Myth #3: “My baby has a lot of mucus, so I should stop giving him/her milk.”
This myth has been around for many years, but multiple research studies show no casual link or correlation between milk consumption and mucus production. Eliminating milk from a young child’s diet can result in nutritional deficiencies, and cutting out entire food groups such as dairy without good reason isn’t recommended.
Myth #4: “My baby was ‘screened’ for food allergies and blood results are connected to many allergenic foods, so I can’t introduce them into his/her diet.”
Unless there is a clear history of allergic reaction to the particular food tested or risk factors (such as severe eczema or an existing food allergy) are present, screening for food allergies isn’t recommended as false positive results occur frequently. Interpreting blood test results to foods in this context is complex, and an allergist should be consulted if you have any doubts or concerns. If your baby has eaten a particular food many times previously without any problems/reactions, it’s unlikely he/she is allergic to the food.
Myth #5: “My baby has severe eczema, and all of the allergenic foods I try to introduce make it worse.”
Eczema is a skin disorder that will unfortunately flare up at times from various environmental factors, not all necessarily food-related. It’s best to consult an allergist prior to allergenic food introduction if your infant has severe eczema. You’ll receive specific advice regarding which foods you need to be avoiding, if any. Sometimes, supervised in-hospital food introduction (food challenge) might be required for some infants in order to diagnose or rule out a food allergy.
Finally, it’s important to note that if your baby has an allergic reaction to a particular food, you should immediately consult your pediatrician or allergist. Some symptoms to look out for include swelling of the lips, eyes or face, hives anywhere on the body, vomiting, abdominal discomfort/pain, difficulty breathing, wheezing or other noisy breathing, change in color (pale), and unresponsiveness. Don’t continue feeding your child the food that caused the allergic reaction.
If you're interested in learning more about Texas Children's Food Allergy Program, click here.