The research behind early introduction yells loud and clear, “food allergy prevention is possible for most babies!” Early introduction, the practice of feeding babies yogurt, peanut, egg, tree nuts, wheat, fish, and soy every week, as soon as they start solid foods, will train most babies’ bodies to safely recognize food proteins as harmless.
There have been multiple studies that test early feeding of nuts, eggs, wheat, and milk in both high-risk and low-risk babies and all indicate that early introduction helps prevent food allergies.
The LEAP Study is the most widely known study. It jump-started the food allergy prevention research train after it showed babies with eczema who ate peanuts regularly were 80% less likely to develop a peanut allergy.
Several additional studies asked the same question about other foods, and also looked at babies without eczema, to decide where to go from there.
Here’s what each study discovered about early introduction and food allergy prevention:
- The EAT Study - Starting solids at 4 months old does not interfere with breastfeeding, and feeding your baby 2 servings per week of at least 1g of protein is effective at reducing the risk of food allergy for peanut, egg, and wheat.
- The CHILD Study - Early introduction reduces the risk of peanut allergy by 80%, for both low-risk and high risk-children.
- The PETIT Study - Egg introduction can reduce the risk of allergy, and starting with hard boiled egg is 15x safer.
- All three - Early introduction is safe for all babies. Starting right as you introduce solids, ensuring your baby gets enough in a sitting, and being regular through the 1st birthday all matter.
- All three - it’s really difficult to pull off that many servings of so many foods each week
We make Lil Mixins so that you can easily incorporate early introduction into your babies meals. The Lil Mixins Daily Mix subscription gives you what you need every month to help reduce your baby’s allergy risk.
Enquiring About Tolerance (EAT)
The Enquiring About Tolerance (EAT) Study proved that feeding babies 6 allergenic foods (milk, peanut, sesame, fish, egg, wheat) from 3 months old, along with continued breastfeeding, could reduce the number of children who developed food allergies by three years old.
How did the EAT Study work?
Researchers in the United Kingdom recruited breastfed infants who did not have food allergies and were representative of the population. The infants were split into two groups.
The Standard group breastfed exclusively until 6 months old, and could wait to introduce allergens after that whenever they wanted.
The Early group introduced six foods from 3 months old. Parents started with cows’ milk yogurt, then fish, egg, milk, sesame and peanut, and lastly wheat, adding 2 new foods per week. Each food had to be fed at least 2 times a week, and each serving needed to include >1g of that protein (aka 2g per food per week).
EAT Study Results
When babies in the Early group followed the rules, the rate of food allergies decreased significantly, showing that early introduction helped prevent all food allergies.
Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development Study (CHILD)
The CHILD study followed thousands of Canadian babies from birth to age 7 to see how early allergen introduction and eczema affect a baby’s risk of developing food allergies. A recent publication from the CHILD study team specifically looked at peanut introduction in low risk infants.
How did the CHILD Study work?
Babies were recruited before they were born! Every 6 months, parents reported if they had started feeding their babies certain proteins (like egg or peanut), and if their child had been diagnosed with a food allergy. Each visit they were tested for allergies and changes in eczema.
CHILD Study Results
Across 3,000 babies, those who started eating peanut before 12 months were 4x less likely to have a peanut allergy at 3 years old. Avoiding peanut until 18 months, like the old thinking, caused a 7x higher rate of peanut allergy.
The link between early allergen introduction and a decreased risk of food allergy was there both for high- and low-risk babies.
Two-Step Egg Introduction for the Prevention of Egg Allergy in High Risk Infants with Eczema (PETIT)
One of the most confusing things from the studies before the PETIT Study was that many babies, especially those with eczema, seemed to react to uncooked eggs while they could tolerate boiled eggs.
So the PETIT Study asked, “what if we tried to prevent egg allergies by always starting with boiled eggs?”
How did the PETIT Study work?
Researchers in Japan recruited babies 4-5 months old with eczema, but no food allergies. The babies were split into two groups to either start eating boiled eggs, or to eat a placebo (something that looked like egg but was just flour).
Babies in the egg group ate hard boiled egg powder every day from 6 months to 9 months of age and then increased the amount from 9 to 12 months of age.
PETIT Study Results
Babies did not react to the boiled egg, and were safely able to eat them. Starting with boiled egg was determined to be 15 times safer for babies than introducing raw or lightly cooked (scrambled / fried) egg. Once babies spent a couple months eating boiled egg, they were able to safely transition to cooked egg around 10 months old.
The PETIT study was so effective at preventing egg allergy that the study had to be stopped early. Doctors decided that it was not ethical to continue having babies avoid boiled eggs, because this would dramatically increase their risk of developing an egg allergy.