While pregnant, soon-to-be moms hear plenty of myths and legends about how their pregnancy affects their newborn’s health. One common thought is that moms can protect their children from certain allergies by eating specific foods. Let’s dig into this idea:
Can you prevent allergies in your baby?
You’ve probably heard varied thoughts on when you should expose your new baby to potential allergens like peanuts, wheat or avocado. Should you eat these foods while pregnant or wait until the child is born and begins eating solid foods?
It’s important to note that ingesting potential allergens while pregnant will not affect your child’s potential for having those specific allergies. In fact, it’s possible that not exposing your child to allergens like wheat and dairy while in utero may make him or her more likely to have allergic reactions later in life.
Newborns have incredibly sensitive digestive systems and therefore should have only breast milk and formula. Within four to six months, your doctor may say that it is OK to expose the child to one-ingredient foods. Common options include applesauce, sweet potatoes, carrots, rice and oat cereal, mashed pears and bananas.
Always introduce just one food at a time so you can gauge how each one affects your child’s stomach and account for any possible allergic reactions. Baby foods should be bland and not contain any preservatives or other chemical additives that could harm your child. You can buy them canned or in jars – look for newborn specific ones – or make them at home with the help of a food processor and fresh ingredients.
“Introduce new foods one by one.”
If your child does well eating those one-ingredient foods, you can move on to other options such as eggs, dairy products, peanut butter, tree nuts, shellfish and fish, so long as they are in a form that babies can easily eat, swallow and digest. Continue with the one new food every three to five days model as that will help you ascertain any potential allergic reactions.
Keep an eye out for skin rashes and difficulty breathing as these may indicate that your child is allergic to something he or she recently ate. In the event that you suspect an allergic reaction, consult your pediatrician immediately. If your newborn seems to be having any difficulty breathing, go to the emergency room right away. Anaphylactic shock, or the closing of the airways caused by exposure to an allergen, requires treatment as soon as possible. Severe reactions like this can be scary, but having medications like Benadryl and epinephrine on hand should allow your child to live a normal life.
Introducing your baby to possible allergens
If you or your partner have food allergies, or your child’s siblings have allergies, your newborn is at a heightened risk of experiencing allergens him or herself. It may be worth having your child see an allergen specialist before trying potential risks at home. Allergenists can provide a safe environment in which to test your child’s immune system for everything from bee allergies to problems with peanuts, eggs, or even latex.