How to Reintroduce Food Allergens Back Into Your Diet or Your Babies
After getting to baseline with your baby who has food allergies, the next question you might have is: how long do I need to wait until I reintroduce foods back into my diet or my baby’s diet?
Scientific literature recommends waiting 6 months after the last reaction before reintroducing a trigger food again.  This gives your baby time to completely heal and for their immune system to mature.
So now you’ve been killing it producing allergen-free breastmilk and it’s been 6 months without any reaction from your baby. The next big question is: how do you reintroduce food allergens to your baby? We’ll go over a couple of options below.
Luckily, many infants will grow out of their food allergies or sensitivities by their first birthday and no longer need restrictions. However, it’s important to test for continued allergies safely and effectively. Work with your medical team and consider the following courses of action.
Direct Introduction of Food Allergens to Your Baby Is Best
Since food allergens taken in by mom do not always appear in breast milk, it's best to introduce the allergen directly to your baby. We know, it’s scary. But we’re here to help you in this process.
After your baby is 6 months old, you can begin introducing solids into their diet. For babies with food allergies or sensitivities, start with solids that you haven't experienced any response to through your diet (aka breast milk) and are less likely to cause a response.
Choose one food to introduce at a time, giving only that food for 3-5 days to test for any reaction. Once you have offered a variety of non-allergen foods without any adverse effects, you can begin introducing the top 12 infant food allergens.
Research suggests a "ladder" system that involves different levels of preparation for food allergies. Using this method, the baby starts with the most broken down form of the protein by cooking it at various heat levels.
For example, offering dairy in the form of a cooked muffin would be the start of the dairy ladder. After no reaction occurs, you would then try a pancake, and continue working your way up the “ladder” until your baby can drink cow’s milk without a response.
Each of these “steps in the ladder” represents a different level of heat which will change the structure or size of the protein. The more heat involved, the more broken down the protein is.
Make sure to keep a close eye on your baby when reintroducing allergens. Your baby may fail a step at any point and we know how heartbreaking this is. But it doesn’t mean they will always have an allergy. Some babies grow out of their food sensitivities after their first birthday.
A Google search can give you each step of the ladder for foods like dairy, soy, and egg. But it can be confusing to know exactly what to give your baby. When you sign up for our Master Class you’ll learn more about ladders and receive our Free to Feed Dairy, Soy, Egg, and Wheat Ladders in the mail!
Food Allergy Introduction Through Breast Milk Is Trickier Because of the Unknowns
If your baby is too young to introduce directly, you may decide to trial through your diet. This can be more complicated because not every ingested protein will enter your milk every time. Some moms feel better about trialing through their breastmilk because it just feels “safer.”
But using a method reliant on the mother’s consumption could result in believing your child is not sensitive to an allergen. But instead, they’re simply not being exposed to it.
For this reason, it's recommended to trial for a longer period of time if you decide to reintroduce allergens back into your diet and continue breastfeeding your food allergy baby.
Since non-IgE reactions can take up to 48 hours to occur, it's often recommended to use an every-other-day trial for likely trigger foods and/or a modified ladder introduction.
Add the food allergen back in one serving every other day and monitor for changes. Do so for a minimum of 2 weeks to ensure the baby has had a high probability of being exposed to the protein through your breast milk before moving on to another trial.
Important Points on Reintroducing Food Allergies to Your Precious Baby
The above recommendations tend to be more conservative. If you read the information and thought, “it’s going to take me months to reintroduce all these foods,” it typically doesn’t. For example, many breastfeeding moms won’t have to reintroduce foods so slowly after an elimination diet. Every family and situation is unique and we work with that valuable information to help guide you.
Because every journey is different, it’s easier to discuss your elimination experience in order to determine the best possible reintroduction strategy with the Free to Feed team. Introduction strategies will vary based on reactions, elimination, and age. Schedule a one-on-one consult today and we will create a specific reintroduction action plan to walk you through your unique situation.
It’ll help ease your mind and make this process less stressful. Free to Feed is here to educate you and support you on this journey. We know how scary it is to reach baseline and then be advised to reintroduce foods that at one time caused a severe reaction in your baby. You are not alone and we’re here to guide you!
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Dr. Trill’s Personal Experience With Reintroducing Foods To Her Daughters
“I decided to start introducing allergens to my daughter when she was about 9 months old. By then she had been eating different fruits and vegetables like a champ. I started with the allergens that I believed were least likely for her to be sensitive to.
I gave her a small serving a day for five days to elicit a response. Each time there was no reaction, I would try another version of the same allergen for an additional three days. For example, doing soy yogurt and then edamame. If no reaction occurred, I crossed that allergen off our list – and did a happy dance!
Today, I now know so much more about the science behind reintroduction and have helped hundreds of parents navigate this process more methodically with massive success!”