If your baby is about to crawl, you need a plan for baby-proofing. And when your baby seems ready for solid foods, you need a plan for early allergen introduction.
What is Early Introduction?
Early introduction is the missing link to food allergy prevention. Early introduction means that you feed your baby servings of peanuts, eggs, milk, wheat, and tree nuts every week, as soon as they start solids, through their first birthday.
This trains your baby’s immune system to tolerate common allergy-causing foods.
In early allergen introduction, the allergens are a part of their meals, but not the whole meal.
There are three important pieces for early allergen training to work:
- Early - A baby needs to train their immune system BEFORE they develop an allergy. Training should start as soon as a baby starts solid foods. Most food allergies develop between 6 and 10 months old, so early introduction should start by 6 months, and continue to the first birthday.
- Enough - A baby’s body needs 2g of protein each time to properly learn to tolerate a food. If you mumble, your baby will not hear your words to learn them. If you give a baby teensy amounts of a food, their immune system may not learn to tolerate it.
- Often - A baby’s body needs regular training (at least weekly) until their first birthday to learn to tolerate a food. If you say a word to your baby one time, they will not learn it. Babies learn by repetition, so let me repeat: a single serving is not enough, even if you don’t see an allergic reaction.
Should Everyone Have a Plan for Early Allergen Introduction?
Any baby can develop food allergies. My son developed food allergies even though no one on either side of our family has them.
Babies who have severe eczema, meaning 2 flares, each lasting 2 weeks, that needs prescription steroids to heal, OR a known food allergy, are at especially high risk of developing a food allergy.
But every other baby still has a ~10% chance of developing a food allergy if they do not get proper immune training.
Some babies are more likely to develop a lisp, but almost any baby can. There’s nothing wrong with these kids or with their parents! Every baby just needs to be taught. Early allergen introduction is like speech therapy for the tummy.
When Should a Baby Start Early Allergen Introduction?
Studies have shown that babies with severe eczema or another known food allergy have immune systems that are already making mistakes. These babies need to start early allergen introduction as early as four months old, but you should talk to their doctor first. Starting introduction of solid foods before 4 months can be unhealthy for a baby.
Every other baby should start adding peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, wheat, and shellfish into their food as soon as they start solid foods, but no later than 6 months old. Almost every baby is developmentally ready for solid foods by 6 months old, so there is no reason to delay beyond that.
How Does Early Introduction Work?
A baby’s immune system and brain are born knowing nothing. Both do most of their learning and growing in the first 3 years. You already know to teach your baby’s brain words, sounds, and love. You have to teach your baby’s immune system as well.
The first time your baby sees a new toy that makes a lot of noise, they might show surprise. But they don’t know whether to be happy or scared. If they see the toy over and over, they learn that the noise is harmless and fun. They might start loving that toy. (and you may have to take out the batteries!) On the other hand, if they only saw the toy one time, and it was the same day they fell, they might make the mistake of associating the toy with danger and become scared of the toy for no reason.
We want to avoid those sorts of immune mistakes by showing your baby a food over and over to learn that it is safe.
We know this works because several huge clinical studies have proven it. In each study, parents were randomly told to either train their baby’s immune system with early allergen introduction, or to not train the immune system and avoid the foods.
In every study, the babies who trained their immune systems with early introduction had way fewer food allergies than the babies who did not train their immune systems.
What it Means for You and Your Baby
In the end, you don't have to change much of what you're doing. Instead of avoiding foods, you just feed them to your baby a few times a week through their first year. There is less work than you think to a lifetime of fear-free eating.
I didn’t know about early allergen introduction when my older son was a baby, and he has 10 food allergies. I developed Lil Mixins to safely train my younger son’s body and he has no food allergies. Our 3 Infant Powders are made up of all the foods that I realized are really difficult to prepare and feed your baby 3 times a week. We make baby-safe peanuts, tree nuts, and eggs, so you can begin early introduction with ease.
Early allergen introduction is super important and the only proven way to prevent most food allergies. We know it can feel overwhelming so we have made it safe, convenient, and easy.
Whether you are making batches of food at home, buying prepared food, or following baby-led weaning, Lil Mixins works with your routine.Remember, you can train your baby’s body to tolerate all foods. The keys to success are to start early, make sure they eat enough with every serving, and do training sessions often. Lil Mixins Daily Mix & Lifetime Mix can help with all three.