How to Successfully Start Reintroducing Food Allergens to My Baby

You’ve found the food allergens that cause symptoms for your precious baby and removed them from your diet. You’re producing allergen-free breastmilk and your baby is at baseline. Hallelujah!


Many parents wonder...what’s next?


There are always so many questions surrounding how to reintroduce foods to your baby with food allergies. It’s an exciting, yet scary time. You’re concerned about if they “fail” or have a reaction. You don’t want your baby to suffer any more than they already have.


A few of the big questions parents have are:

  • How long do I have to wait after reaching baseline?

  • Should I introduce directly or through my own diet/breast milk?

  • What is the “ladder” all about?

Free to Feed is here to help parents succeed in breastfeeding their baby with food allergies — and part of that success is getting more foods back into your diet and your baby’s.


After years of consultations with parents from all over the world, Dr. Trill offers some solid advice and science to back it up. We’re going to look at different approaches to the reintroduction of food allergies and the pros and cons of each.


How Long Should I Wait to Reintroduce Food Allergens to My Baby?


This might be one of the biggest questions we get. And we completely understand — you want more options when it comes to eating.


Research shows that waiting at least 6 months without any reaction from your baby is best. [1] And we mean from a confirmed reaction. Maybe you had a slip-up and are sure your baby reacted to legumes. Maybe you aren’t sure exactly what your baby’s triggers are — this is where the one-on-one consults can help you pinpoint your baby’s specific food allergies.

We know, that can feel like forever. No real pizza for at least 6 months...sucks! But we also know parents will do anything for their kids.


Since food allergies often affect the GI tract of our little babies, this period gives them time to heal and for their immune systems to mature. Each food allergy your baby has needs a 6 month waiting period before attempting to reintroduce that food. If you cut soy 3 months ago but dairy 6 months ago, you can try dairy first. But you’ll need to wait 3 more months to try soy. Remember, food allergies are all about the immune system.


You can make it 6 months – we believe in you!


Side note: There is nothing magical about 6 months. Your baby could grow out of their food allergies sooner, but research has shown us that waiting this period of time increases the chance they will outgrow their food allergies.


The other confusing aspect surrounding baby food allergies is conflicting information online. Some say that completely withholding certain foods from your baby can decrease the chance of allergies. (Hint: Not true!)


Free to Feed is here to clear up the confusion for you!


The world of food allergies has changed significantly over the years, including recommendations to prevent food allergies. Take a look at our powerful example of peanuts for more insight.


Scientific studies show that avoiding allergenic foods while breastfeeding and delaying the introduction of foods after the 1st year of life is proven ineffective at preventing food allergies. Sadly, this recommendation is an international guideline! [2] As we’ve said, the field is a bit behind the times, which is why we’re so passionate about offering research-backed info.


So you’ve waited for 6-months and your baby is thriving without any reactions. How do you reintroduce foods into their diet?


Direct Food Introduction Is Best For Your Food Allergy Baby

We understand some parents might not like this answer because it leads to fear. As a mama, you’ve been producing allergen-free breastmilk for at least 6 months, so you know your baby has been safe. You and your spouse have been diligently reading every label and making allergy-free dinners. You’ve all put in the work to make sure your baby is safe.


Now directly giving them a portion of food you know caused a reaction in the past might give you PTSDjust thinking about it.


But here is why direct food introduction is best: you know your baby is being exposed to that food protein — and you can monitor them safely for a reaction. You’re in control here. You give your baby a small portion for a certain number of days and wait for the result.


Introduction through breast milk adds in a lot of confusion because:

  • How do we know if your baby is for sure getting the food protein?

  • How much protein are they getting?

  • How broken down is the protein?

  • And on and on...

We know not all food proteins pass through breastmilk and the proteins that do vary in how long they’re present. The last thing we want is for you to think your baby has passed a food allergy through breastfeeding — and they actually haven’t even had the protein to cause a reaction.


Next, we’ll discuss the importance of the “ladder” system with food allergy introduction.


Reintroducing Food Allergens To Your Baby Using The Ladder System


If you’re afraid of heights, you’ll like this type of ladder.


Ladders are for climbing, right? Well, the same approach applies when it’s time to reintroduce food allergens to your baby. You start small (the bottom of the ladder) and work your way up to the highest point (top of the ladder).


Why is this approach the best? (We know, you really just want to eat an entire cheese platter. Or maybe that’s just me…)


The reintroduction ladder system works best because the protein concentrations are different at each “step.” You’ll notice the bottom of the ladder often involves heat. For example, the soy ladder starts with soy oil or lecithin, depending on the severity of your little one’s sensitivity.


Soy oil and lecithin are often found in baked foods, such as cookies or biscuits. Baking requires heat for an extended period of time, and heat changes the protein structure. Like magic, it breaks down into a more digestible form. (Happy dance!)


This applies to ALL food proteins, not just soy. Studies show that children grow out of their milk allergy and become tolerant to milk in baked form before fresh milk because baking reduces the protein allergenicity. The same study showed that out of 100 children, 75% tolerated baked milk products. [2]


When you think about it, if your little one passes a ladder step, it opens up your diet – and theirs!


We don’t want to scare you, but it’s possible your baby might fail a step. If they fail step 3 of the ladder, this means their immune system can handle the protein form of steps 1 and 2 without causing a reaction. This provides powerful information for your family to continue being diligent in the foods you can eat. Remember to focus on what you can eat, and not what you can’t eat.


Research also shows that rapid exposure – going straight to milk, for example — may result in severe reactions. [2] The ladder system works the best, and we know you want the best for your babies.


Your family’s unique situation can change how reintroduction works for your little one. Many families find one-on-one consults so valuable for this reason.


One-on-One Consults Help You Succeed at Reintroducing Food Allergens to Your Baby

This blog barely touches the surface of reintroducing food allergens to your baby. You probably have a lot more questions...


How soon can I introduce a new food after a “pass” of another food?

How much food do I give my baby?

What’s a “diaper fail”?


We hear you. We’re here for you. And we’ve got a little more information on reintroduction here.


One of the main issues we help parents navigate is reintroducing food allergens to their babies with our one-on-one consults. Every family and baby is unique, and so is your story. We want to help take some stress off your shoulders and clear up your path.


Sign up for a one-on-one consult today for guidance on a plan that works for your family. We’re so happy to announce that we’ve added more times for our international food allergy parents!



Sources:


  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/cea.12302

  2. https://www.mdpi.com/1648-9144/55/7/323/htm