Exposing Baby to Top 8 Allergens

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*** This post on exposing your baby to top 8 food allergens is based on my experience only and is not meant to replace medical advice. Always discuss and develop a plan with your medical provider before embarking on any exposure regimen.***

Most research suggests that exposing baby early might help avoid development of food allergies. Research also suggests that exposing your baby can also reduce the severity of a food allergy. Click here to Jump to our favorite foods

Exposing your Baby Research

An estimated 8% of children in the United States have a food allergy, according to the CDC, and this number is rising. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) released guidance in 2017 recommending when babies should be introduced to peanuts based on perceived risk. For instance, children who have severe eczema are at greater risk for developing food allergies.

Therefore, exposing your baby to top 8 allergens should begin around 4-6 months of age. Additionally, babies “with a sibling or at least one biological parent who has allergic conditions are at risk for developing food allergy” according to American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI). The AAAAI suggests that delaying the exposure to top 8 allergens in babies at risk “may increase […] babies risk of developing allergies”. So, there isn’t significant research confirming that exposing your baby will prevent the development of allergies. However, the experts suggest that not doing so may increase your risk.

Our Cautionary Tale in Exposing Baby

Now that the the recommendations are clear as can be, my own cautionary tale… When I was pregnant with my second, the pediatric allergist told me that the likelihood of her developing food allergies was high. This was because big brother and myself have food allergies. We were worried, but didn’t do too much about it, to be honest. In our defense, we weren’t given instructions to do so from our pediatrician or the pediatric allergist. When she was 18 months old, we thought that we had beaten the odds and our baby girl was food allergy free. After all, Big brother had developed allergies at around 6 months immediately with the introduction of baby formula.

Cut to our Hawaiian vacation when we gave her a PB&J. She broke out in hives and couldn’t stop vomiting. Turns out she had developed an allergy to most nuts, tree-nuts and legumes. DON’T BE LIKE US! Even if your pediatrician hasn’t suggested that you expose baby early, ask the direct question and develop a baby exposure plan. Remember, the known risk factors for developing food allergies are: asthma, ezcema or a sibling/ parent with food allergies.

Our Exposure Approach

We took a very laissez-faire approach with our second and had an unfortunate outcome. We took a much more proactive approach with our 3rd child. By discussing first with our pediatrician, who referred us to speak directly with a pediatric allergist we developed an exposure plan for our baby and our situation.

Now, we have been exposing her to the top 8 allergens, plus her siblings’ allergens, regularly since 4 months old. Again please discuss any plan with your medical provider first. Your pediatric allergist may want to test baby for any allergens before developing an exposure plan. That way, they can identify any known allergies prior to developing an exposure plan. We tested #3 early, and started exposing her with her first foods. Note: Some research, including the AAAAI suggest easing baby in. This includes starting with typical foods (e.g. rice cereal) before exposing to allergens, but that was not our allergist’s recommendation. We started with the heavy hitters (peanuts, egg and dairy) and then moved down the list.

With 3 kids, 2 careers and 1 pandemic, it was difficult to stay on top of all of the allergens. I was over the moon when I found products that could help expose my baby without me having to cook food that the other children were allergic to. Read along to see some of my favorite recommendations.

Favorite Foods to Help Expose Baby

Happy Baby brand Nutty Blends link to buy on Amazon

Happy Baby brand Nutty Blends!

These are a fantastic way to expose baby and toddlers to the top four nuts/ tree-nuts. They come in four different flavors, each formulated for a different nut/ tree-nut: cashew, almond, walnut and peanut. Let’s be honest peanut butter and almond butter are pretty easy to find and affordable, but walnut butter? I’ve seen cashew butter at specialty stores, but man is it expensive! I love these because they make it so easy to expose baby to harder to find cashew and walnut at a reasonable price… plus they’re organic! I’ve always been able to find these at Target and in bulk on Amazon.

Plum Organics brand Nut Butter Bars!

Obviously for slightly older babies. I love these because they allergen is pretty contained and not likely to get all over baby’s hands. I feel less nervous when baby is using these, because it’s quite a bit more challenging for baby to fling peanut butter across the room when its inside of a bar. They only come in two flavors: almond butter and peanut butter, however. I’ve always been able to find them at Target, and in bulk on Amazon.

Plum Organics brand Nut Butter Bars!
Sprout brand Organic Curlz Link to buy on Amazon

Sprout brand Organic Curlz

What about legumes!? My older daughter has as severe allergy to most legumes, with chickpeas representing one of her most severe allergens. So I’m always on the look out for ways to expose baby sister that I can contain, and that baby will eat (read: not hummus- that stuff can fly far when flung!). These organic curlz are a great snack for when baby is older. Again, Target is the place where I’ve had the best luck finding these.

Will these foods guarantee that your baby won’t develop food allergies? Absolutely not. Can exposing your baby help prevent or decrease severity of food allergies? Hopefully…. What I can say is that baby #3 is now a thriving 18 month old without food allergies. I fear everyday that the *next time* she has a top 8 allergen food, she’ll have a reaction. So, I keep up with the exposure plan regimen. Every day that goes by means, she’s another day closer to hopefully living an allergy free life. Any products that can make providing that peace of mind easier are worth their weight in gold…

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