Once you have the hang of allergen free breast feeding, the next inevitable question is: When and how do we try reintroducing food allergens? Many infants will develop a tolerance to allergens by their first birthday and no longer need restrictions. However, it is important to test for continued allergies safely and effectively.
Since food allergens ingested by mom do not always appear in breast milk, it is best to introduce the allergen directly to the child. Using a method reliant on the mother’s consumption could result in believing your child is not sensitive to an allergen, but instead they are simply not being exposed to it.
After your babe is six months old, you can begin introducing solids into their diet. For children with food sensitivities, start out with non-allergen solids such as avocado. 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 attempt allergens. It is up to you if you want to start allergens after 6 months or wait until they are one. Obviously doing so earlier could significantly loosen the restrictions placed on mom’s diet. Some research suggests a ladder system which involves differing levels of preparation. For example, offering dairy in the form of cheese first.
In my own experience, 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 three 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. If nothing happened, I crossed that allergen off our list.
Below are ideas for each allergen reintroduction:
Dairy: Yogurt, cheese, pancakes, milk added to a puree.
Soy: Edamame, tofu, soy alternatives such as yogurt and milk.
Egg: Cooked egg, egg noodles, mayonnaise, egg custard.
Peanut: Peanut butter, peanut oil.
Tree Nuts: Nut butter, almond/cashew milk.
Wheat: Cereal, cream of wheat, bread, pasta, biscuits.
Fish: Start with “white flesh” fish which are lowest on the allergen list (flounder, haddock, cod).
Shellfish: Shrimp, clams, lobster (recommended to wait until 12 months old).
Keep an eye out for any possible reactions and consider having an epi-pen on hand in case of an emergency.