Q&A with An Allergist-Mom on New Infant Food Allergy Prevention Guidelines
We spoke with Board Certified Allergist (and mom of two!), Katie Marks-Cogan, M.D, to answer your FAQs about the new guidelines on childhood food allergy prevention. As Chief Allergist for Ready, Set, Food!, Katie Marks-Cogan, M.D. is board certified in Allergy/Immunology and Internal Medicine and treats both pediatric and adult patients.
New Research on Preventing Infant Food Allergies
Q: What do you tell parents about food allergy prevention?
A: Over the last few decades, food allergy rates have increased significantly. Fortunately, parents can now help reduce their infants’ risk of developing peanut and other food allergies, according to recent landmark studies on early and sustained allergen exposure. These studies showed up to an 80% reduction in specific food allergies by exposing infants to potentially allergenic foods early and often.
Based on these studies and new national guidelines, I recommend that parents introduce allergenic foods into their baby’s diet starting around 4-6 months of age and continue to feed these foods regularly for several months.
Breastfeeding and Infant Food Allergy Prevention
Q: Can’t I just eat peanuts, egg, and milk while I’m pregnant or breastfeeding? Won’t that reduce my baby’s risk?
A: Great question, and one that I think a lot of moms wonder about. Currently, scientists do not believe that specific maternal diets during pregnancy or breastfeeding can be protective against food allergy, but this area is still being studied. So, current national guidelines still recommend that early and sustained allergen introduction be part of a baby’s feeding routine regardless of mom’s diet.
If Your Child Has Eczema
Q: My daughter is 5 months old and has eczema, would you still recommend early allergen introduction?
A: About 9-10 million children in the United States under the age of 18 have a specific form of eczema called atopic dermatitis. It’s basically caused by a malfunction in the immune system and a problem with the skin barrier. Children with atopic dermatitis develop red, rashy, and itchy skin. We know that children with atopic dermatitis have a higher risk of developing food allergies and recent landmark studies have shown that early and sustained allergen introduction is particularly important in this group of children. However, if your baby has severe eczema, then current national guidelines recommend that they receive allergy testing prior to the introduction of specific allergenic foods. So if you’re unsure about the severity of your child’s eczema, I’d recommend speaking to your pediatrician or your allergist to find out if early and sustained allergen introduction is right for you.
A Solution to Early and Sustained Allergen Introduction
Q: Can’t I just feed my baby real peanuts, eggs, and milk? Can’t I do it myself?
A: Great question, this is one that I get often from my patients. The answer is yes, you can do early and sustained allergen introduction by yourself by giving your baby foods with peanut, egg, and milk. However, because you have to wait until your baby is mature enough to eat solids, this can be a challenge because many babies are not ready to eat solid food until at least 6 months of age, if not later. The landmark clinical trials on early and sustained allergen introduction actually suggest that it may be more beneficial to give babies allergenic foods closer to 4 months of age. In addition, it can be a time-consuming process because you can’t just give these foods to your baby once and then forget about them. These same clinical studies also suggest that you have to give allergenic foods on a consistent and frequent basis in order to have the most benefit in terms of trying to reduce your child’s risk of food allergies. I actually did early allergen introduction with my son when he was a baby, and it was difficult because I had to prepare all the food, keep track of how often I was giving the allergens, and make sure that all the food was getting into his mouth and not on his face or on his bib, so I do understand that it can be a frustrating process. This is basically the main reason that my colleagues and I created Ready, Set, Food! - because we wanted to make this process easier for families. By removing the stress and creating an evidence-based product, Ready, Set, Food! makes it easy for families to bring the results of this research home.
Learn more about Ready, Set, Food’s allergist-developed system and sign up for a convenient monthly subscription now to give your child the gift of food freedom! Use promo code: MILKFUL15 for $15 off any Ready, Set, Food! subscription.
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