New guidelines for introducing food allergens to infants | Rachel Begun, MS, RD


There has been much back and forth about when is best to introduce highly allergenic foods to infants.

Prior to 2008, parents were often told to delay introduction of the common food allergens beyond 12 months, and for some food allergens as long as 24 or 36 months.  The thought was that delaying introduction of these foods could reduce the risk that infants and children would become allergic to them.

In January, the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology (AAAAI) released a new set of guidelines based on the research currently available.  Contrary to what was previously thought, the body of evidence currently shows a lower risk for developing food allergies when these foods are introduced earlier on and a higher risk when delaying their introduction.

Here are the key recommendations from the new guidelines:

  • The evidence doesn’t support delayed introduction of highly allergenic foods. For infants over the age of 4 months who have tolerated several non-allergenic foods (i.e., rice cereal, bananas, sweet potato, etc.), parents can introduce other more allergenic foods.
    • These foods should be introduced in the home setting where parents can carefully watch for any reactions
    • New foods should be introduced one at a time, every 5 days or so, so that parents can identify allergenic foods
  • The current body of evidence also doesn’t support the restriction of highly allergenic foods during pregnancy and lactation.
  • Exclusive breast feeding up until 4 months may reduce risk for cow’s milk allergy.
  • Partially hydrolyzed formula may reduce the risk of food allergies in infants at high-risk or those not breast-feeding.

Recommended resources for information about food allergies:

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