What is early allergen introduction?
Early allergen introduction, or just early introduction, is a new term — one that has emerged over the last couple of years as a response to new research. Early introduction is the process of feeding a potentially allergenic food to infants early on in their immune system development and on a consistent basis as they continue to grow and develop.
For the past decade, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended delaying the introduction of peanuts (and other allergenic foods) until about 3 years of age, but times have changed! Thanks to new research, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) has since stated that there is no reason to delay the introduction of potentially allergenic foods past 4-6 months of age (right around the time many parents choose to start supplementing breast milk or formula with new foods).
Since the concept of early introduction is so new, there are currently very few options available for parents to get started. From conversations with parents and our own experiences, we’ve found that when babies are ready to start solid foods, many pediatricians will just tell you to “go!”. With that unclear directive, many parents are left wondering exactly where to start and, more importantly, how. Many of the allergenic foods we want to introduce are not naturally in age-appropriate form. Nuts and seeds are choking hazards and sticky nut butters can be, too (and no mom we’ve talked to wants to boil and puree shrimp for their babies). Plus, with all the craziness of adjusting to life with a new baby, it’s hard to keep track of exactly which foods have already been introduced and which should still be introduced.
With all these challenges, maintaining a consistent routine of common allergen introduction can be difficult. That was the challenge that we set out to tackle when we created Inspired Start. By making delicious purees of foods that can often be tricky to introduce in a format that parents are already used to, we hope we can start a food introduction revolution. When it comes down to it, foods like peanut, tree nuts, and shellfish are just that, foods! The fear that comes along with introducing these foods is of course totally valid (especially with the rise in food allergies over the last decade), with new research, however, parents need a way to normalize the process of allergen introduction and fit it into their already crazy busy routines.