Food allergies have been a constant concern for parents. Nearly 6 million children are affected by food allergies, and the prevalence of food allergy has increased by 50% between 1997 and 2011. Having a parent or sibling with allergies increases the risk of developing allergies, so if you or your partner are one of the 9 million adults that suffer from food allergies you may be wondering how you can prevent the same for your baby.
It is no wonder this topic has been a debate among medical professionals for years. In the past doctors would recommend avoiding the “Big-8” most common foods that cause allergic reactions. These are peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish. Allergy to sesame seeds also affects hundreds of thousands of Americans.
If you already have an allergy you are probably already taking steps to avoid a reaction. But is it necessary for pregnant women without food allergy to ditch these nutritious foods from their diet?
What the research says
Thankfully recent research has shown that it is not recommended to avoid any specific foods during pregnancy or lactation to avoid allergies. And interestingly, eating foods like peanuts and tree nuts during pregnancy may actually reduce the risk of developing an allergy. Not to mention that many of these foods are also part of a nutritious and well-balanced diet. For instance, fish and nuts contain healthy fats that are beneficial for babies’ brain development, and foods with wheat and peanuts may also contain folate, which is can prevent neural tube defects.
Many studies have shown that once you have your baby you can begin to take steps to prevent food allergies for your child. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that infants are exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life without the mother restricting foods to prevent allergies. Once your baby is ready to try solids you should consider including potentially allergenic foods early on. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases now recommends infants begin trying peanut between 4 and 6 months old, which could potentially reduce the risk of developing a peanut allergy.
So don’t fret about allergies just yet! Focus on a nutritious, well-balanced diet to promote your baby’s healthy development and talk with your doctor or midwife about your plans for feeding your infant.
About the author:
Jennifer is a dietitian passionate about connecting good nutrition with tasty food. She runs a private practice, Nourish for Life, where she works with new moms and parents of young children to help them eat well and have a healthy relationship with food. She is a mom of one tiny human and two fur-babies, and loves creating yummy new recipes in her free time.
- Jackson K et al. “Trends in Allergic Conditions among Children: United States, 1997-2011.” National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief. 2013. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db121.html.
- Boyce, J. A. et al. “Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of food allergy in the United States: report of the NIAID-sponsored expert panel.” J Allergy Clin Immunol. 126, S1–58. Web. 2010.
- Frazier AL et al. “Prospective study of peripregnancy consumption of peanuts or tree nuts by mothers and the risk of peanut or tree nut allergy in their offspring.” JAMA Pediatr. 168(2):156-162. Web. 2014.
- Lessen R et al. “Practice Paper of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Promoting and Supporting Breastfeeding.” J Acad Nutr Diet. 115(3):444-9. Web. Mar 2015.
- “FAQs.” AAP. American Academy of Pediatrics, n.d. Available at https://www2.aap.org/breastfeeding/faqsbreastfeeding.html.