Unfortunately, there is no evidence to prove that you are able to prevent your baby from developing a food allergy throughout your pregnancy. Read about some common misconceptions about food allergy prevention, answers to common questions, and more.
With food allergies for children on the rise, it is only normal to worry that your baby might be at risk for developing a food allergy. While a reaction to food might be serious, it is important to understand the facts and to learn what you might be able to do to help reduce your baby’s chances of developing a serious food allergy.
There are many common misconceptions about food allergies and pregnancy. We encourage you to take time to learn about what causes a food allergy to develop and the truth about the relationship between food allergies, pregnancy, and your baby in order to make informed and healthy decisions for you and your baby.
Can I Prevent Food Allergies During Pregnancy? And Other Common Misconceptions
When it comes to preventing a food allergy for your baby during your pregnancy, there are a lot of myths that you will be told. Switching up your diet, avoiding certain foods, or trying to prevent a food allergy for your baby during your pregnancy is not really possible.
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions when it comes to preventing a food allergy during your pregnancy. Here are some of the top myths debunked.
Myth #1: Eating peanuts and other allergenic foods while breastfeeding can help prevent food allergies for your baby – In the 2019 Guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there was insufficient evidence to show that consuming allergenic foods while breastfeeding has any preventative benefits for your child and food allergies.
“No conclusions can be made about the role of breastfeeding in either preventing or delaying the onset of specific food allergies.” – American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), March 2019.
While you may not be able to prevent a food allergy for your baby with your breastfeeding diet, it is important to maintain a healthy diet while breastfeeding. As a general guide, you should try to include these macronutrient food groups into your diet on a daily basis. This way, you can ensure that you are eating a well-balanced, healthy variety of food.
- Protein: 2-3 servings
- Calcium: 5 servings; breastfeeding will draw from your body’s personal calcium reserves the most so it is important to increase the amount of calcium you are feeding your body when breastfeeding
- Vegetables: 3 servings
- Fruit: 2 servings
- Whole Grains: 2-3 servings
The key to a successful breastfeeding diet is eating nutrient-dense foods to help replenish your body and keep you and your baby healthy. The best thing you can do for your little one is to focus on prioritizing your health through food and balanced nutrition.
Myth #2: Avoiding peanuts and other allergenic foods while pregnant can help prevent food allergies for your baby – According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Guidelines for Diagnosing a Food Allergy (see Guideline 36), expecting mothers should not restrict their diets in order to prevent a food allergy. In fact, the evidence from the recent landmark LEAP study shows that infants with a severe eczema and/or egg allergy with a diet that avoided or had a delayed introduction of peanuts was associated with a significantly increased likelihood for developing a peanut allergy.
Learn more about the NIAID Peanut Introduction Guidelines from Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE):
There are a lot of older and more out-of-date recommendations that have caused a lot of confusion about whether or not introducing allergenic foods at an early age or during pregnancy can help prevent a food allergy. In 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised allergy-prone moms to avoid peanuts and tree nuts during pregnancy to help prevent their babies from developing food allergies.
However, based on current recommendations of the AAP, expecting mothers should not restrict their diet in order to prevent a food allergy for their baby. It’s important to not restrict too much of your diet while breastfeeding your baby to protect both you and your baby’s health.
Myth #3: My baby isn’t at risk for food allergies if they don’t have a family history – Did you know that over 50% of children who have a food allergy do not have any family history or a direct family member with a food allergy? Babies are not born with a food allergy. A food allergy actually develops over time. So, all babies are at risk for developing a food allergy.
What is a food allergy?
An allergic reaction to food happens when your immune system mistakes a food protein as a threat to the body. The immune system will kick in to “attack” this protein as its way of protecting itself. The most common symptoms of a food allergy include itching, hives, swelling, trouble breathing, vomiting, or diarrhea. The two most common symptoms of an allergic reaction in babies are hives (red bumps) or vomiting.
A food intolerance is different from a food allergy. The immune system is not triggered with a food intolerance, it is not the same as a food allergy, although it may share similar symptoms. Typical food intolerance reactions include gasiness, fussiness, and bloating.
What to do if your child has an allergic reaction?
Symptoms for a food allergy will typically start seconds to minutes after your baby eats the food they are allergic to. They almost always start within 2 hours of your baby first eating the allergy-causing food.
The symptoms for an allergic reaction will vary from baby-to-baby so keep in mind that your baby’s reaction might look different than the typical symptoms. If you think your baby is having an allergic reaction, it is best to talk to your doctor immediately for professional medical advice. To learn more about what to do if your baby is having an allergic reaction, check out this blog here.
Is my child at risk?
The truth is, all babies are at risk for developing a food allergy. Babies are not born with a food allergy. In fact, food allergies develop over time. There are some genetic and environmental factors that can increase your baby’s risk of developing a food allergy.
- Family history – If you, your partner, or any other family members have a food allergy, it is more likely that your baby is at risk for developing a food allergy.
- Eczema – Research shows that babies with eczema are at the highest risk of developing a food allergy.
- Lack of Vitamin D – There are studies that show an increased risk of your baby developing a food allergy due to not getting enough Vitamin D.
- Delayed Allergen Exposure – Waiting to introduce allergenic foods, such as peanuts and eggs, can increase your baby’s risk of developing a food allergy.
How To Manage My Baby’s Food Allergy
Food allergies are common with children. About 1 in every 12 children has a food allergy. If you find out that your child is allergic to one or more foods, there are a few things you should do to make sure your child is as safe as possible.
Talk to Your Doctor – Even if your child has an allergic reaction with all of the typical symptoms, you should still talk to your doctor to officially confirm the food allergy. The doctor will likely ask about the allergic reaction and run a few tests to look into the food allergy. Your doctor will be able to provide resources and information on your child’s food allergy as well as prescribe medication like an Epi-Pen to have in case of an emergency.
Avoid Cross-Contamination – You don’t have to throw away all the food in your kitchen that has whichever food your child is allergic to, however, you should take extra steps of caution in order to avoid any cross-contamination. If you decide to not to make your house allergen-free, try having a separate set of plates and utensils to use for your child with an allergy or set up an allergen-free “safe snack” zone for them to choose freely from.
Educate Your Child and Family Members – It’s important that your child and family members understand what a food allergy is and what to do in case of an allergic reaction. Educate your family on what symptoms of an allergic reaction might look or feel like to provide clarity on what to expect if your child accidentally eats the allergen. This education will also make the food allergy less scary since the family will feel confident that they know what to do in case of an emergency.
All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.