The way we feed babies has changed dramatically over the past twenty years or so. While not a new approach to the introduction of solid foods, “baby-led weaning” (BLW) has become more mainstream and understood as a beneficial and viable option with evidence-based short- and long-term benefits. Scientific evidence supporting the early introduction of top allergenic foods during infancy for the prevention of food allergies has also grown. In fact, the new 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend offering top allergens (egg, peanut, tree nut, cow’s milk, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat) early and often starting at about 6 months of age when babies are showing signs of readiness for complementary foods (in conversation with the pediatrician if babies are at high risk for food allergies).[vii] The good news is that BLW is incredibly compatible with the early introduction of top allergens and can ease the process of offering these foods during infancy.
With so much already to talk about during infant well visits, when it’s time to introduce solid foods to your healthy baby, you may wonder how to have that conversation with your provider—especially when it comes to feeding your baby potentially allergenic foods like peanuts for the first time. It’s important to note that introducing peanut foods as early as 4-6 months can reduce the risk of developing a peanut allergy by up to 86%. In fact, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans state, “Introducing peanut-containing foods in the first year reduces the risk that an infant will develop a food allergy to peanuts.”
To empower new parents to discuss introducing peanut foods and other potential allergens with their providers, new mom Katie Brown recently talked with pediatrician Dr. JJ Levenstein.
The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) were released at the end of December. If you missed the announcement, then you also missed a critical insight for healthcare providers and new parents to help bring an end to a public health challenge simply by being intentional about when and what we feed infants.v
It’s an exciting time in the world of nutrition! USDA has released the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, our national nutrition guidance document that comes out just once every five years.
Food allergies have become a public health concern, with up to 10.8% of adults and 6-8% of children believed to be food allergic. Health professionals—from family doctors and physician assistants to nurse practitioners and registered dietitians—have an important role to play in reducing the risk of developing food allergies in the next generation.
Food allergies occur in approximately 8% of kids, with peanut allergies reported in 2.2% of US children. Because peanut allergy is outgrown less frequently than other allergies like milk and egg, it has become an increasing public health concern, as well as a source of anxiety and common topic of conversation amongst parents. Surely you may already have felt the “peanut panic” amongst some of your fellow parents, in the media, and even within your own families.
Many parents are aware of the benefits of introducing common allergens early, but keeping peanut foods in baby’s diet is an important piece of the prevention puzzle. Parents had few ready-to-serve choices in the past, but options continue to grow and expand with some exciting new entries in the peanut-for-baby category.
There are a lot of firsts for parents and Baby in that beginning year of life. From Baby’s first smile and laugh to the first full night of sleep and first time rolling over, it’s an exciting time! Feeding babies food beyond breastmilk or formula is a fun-filled experience too. You can introduce a wide variety of foods when your baby is ready, including common allergens. In fact, you may be surprised how early your baby can start eating these foods so they can grow up to be a big, healthy kid with a diverse diet – and they may also have a reduced risk of food allergies.
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