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Entries in Allergies (4)


Pacifiers and Allergies

Despite the fact that the New York City health department recently started a subway ad campaign warning parents NOT to suck their baby's pacifier clean, new research shows that spreading germs to your baby may be beneficial.

According to the New York Times, a new study shows that:

[I]nfants whose parents sucked on their pacifiers to clean them developed fewer allergies than children whose parents typically rinsed or boiled them.

Read the complete New York Times article here

Depriving kids of germs might backfire.

Some exposure to germs at an early age is good for kids. It helps the immune system develop a tolerance to trivial threats.

As a result, babies whose parents sucked on their pacifiers had blood tests that showed lower levels of a type of immune cell associated with allergies.

This sounds a lot like the new advice regarding food allergies.

Early exposure is better than delayed exposure. Read Peanuts, Eggs and Shellfish Before One and Don't Wait to Introduce Fish For Dinner.

To me, both these findings suggest that focusing too narrowly on germs or allergens produces unintended consequences the same way focusing too narrowly on nutrients produces unintended consequences.

You have to look at the big picture — always.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


Don't Wait to Introduce Fish for Dinner

Food and allergy advice: the times, they are a changin'.

  • Old Advice: Wait before introducing potentially allergenic foods because it will help reduce your child's chances of developing an allergy.
  • New Advice: Delaying may increase your child's chances of developing an allergy.

In other words, once you start weaning feel free to feed your kids peanuts, eggs, shellfish and other potentially allergenic foods. Read more: Peanuts, eggs, and Shellfish Before One.

Now, more evidence about the benefits of introducing fish...early on. It may prevent allergies from forming.

 The New York Times reports on a couple of studies:

  • Children who were introduced to fish between 6 and 12 months had a lower prevalence of asthmalike symptoms than children who were given fish after this window.
  • Children who were given fish twice a month from the age of 1 were 75% less likely to have allergy symptoms—rhinitis and exzema—at the age of 12.

Many parents I know are reluctant to introduce fish to young children.

I'm not sure whether that is because these parents are worried about allergies, or because they're worried their children won't like fish.

Here's an old post on how to interpret your weaning infant's reaction to new foods; it's something for you to "chew on" while I finish the book!


Most parents think introducing their infants to solid foods is difficult because their child may not like the taste, may not like the texture, and may not even know how to navigate the mushy messes down their throats.   

Weaning is tough work because there is so much change to your child's feeding and eating routine - his (so far) lifelong habits.

Here are 10 things your infant might say about weaning if he could:

1) My food used to always be the same – same taste, same texture, same smell. Now it changes from meal-to-meal. I never know what to expect.

2) I used to snuggle with Mommy while I ate but now I don’t.

3) I used to eat while lying down.  Now I have to sit up.

4) I used to decide how quickly or slowly to eat.  Now someone else picks the speed at which food is put into my mouth.

5) I used to take big sips or small sips of milk. Now someone else decides how much food is in each bite.

6) I used to have a soft nipple in my mouth.  Now there’s a hard spoon in there.

7) I used to eat whenever I was hungry.  Now Mommy often makes me wait for meal- or snack-time.

8) Mommy used to be the only one to feed me.  Now lots of different people take turns.

9) I used to decide how long meals lasted.  Now whoever feeds me decides.

10) I never could see what was going on in the room before.  Now I can check out all the action.

There’s a lot going on here as your child adjusts and develops new habits --  it's not just about the food.

What you can do.

  • If your child is having trouble transitioning to solids, look beyond the food to identify the cause (or causes).
  • Try reducing some of the change.  For instance, there’s no law against snuggling while feeding, even if it is solids.
  • Recognize that weaning is a process, both for you and for your child.  How well you cope matters too.
  • Remember, weaning will change from day-to-day because it is an interaction that is always in flux as you and your infant adjust your behavior in reaction to each other.
  • Don't get hung up on how much your child eats.  Sustenance from solids isn't the name-of-the-game right now.  Exposure to lots of different foods is.  
  • Also, don't get hung up on how much your child eats because, it turns out, parents aren't very good judges of that anyway.  Click for more on this topic.
  • Hang in there. Over time, change settles down and feeding improves.  Studies show a vast improvement in feeding within 6 weeks, but that before this time, anything goes.

~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~



van Dijk M, Hunnius S, & van Geert P (2009). Variability in eating behavior throughout the weaning period.Appetite, 52 (3), 766-70 PMID: 19501778


Peanuts, Eggs and Shellfish Before Age One

I gave my daughter eggs before she turned one.

I also gave her peanut butter, shellfish and other foods on the list before she was supposed to eat them. I wasn't being brazen. Quite frankly, I was ignorant. (I really was.)

Now, though, it seems like I did the right thing. (Beginner's luck!)

"Insufficient evidence exists for delaying introduction of solid foods, including potentially allergenic foods, beyond 4 to 6 months of age, even in infants at risk."

That's according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

In other words: Don’t delay giving your kids peanuts, eggs or any other potentially allergenic food. Once you start weaning, you should feel free to feed away.

What a reversal.

  • Old advice: Wait before introducing potentially allergenic foods because it will help reduce your child's chances of developing an allergy.
  • New advice: Delaying may increase your child's chances of developing an allergy.   

One explanation is that when you finally get around to giving peanuts to a baby whose introduction to peanuts has been delayed, her immune system treats them as a foreign substance. The attack that ensues is an allergy.

Ditto for the process that happens with eggs, shellfish, milk, tree nuts, fish and other recommended "stay-aways."

The peanut allergy rate in the U.S. pretty low: 0.6%.

In Israel, where infants are often given a peanut-based snack, the peanut allergy rate is 0.06%

“The body has to be trained in the first year of life.”

That's the explanation Katie Allen, a professor and allergist at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute at Royal Children’s Hospital in Australia gave to the Wall Street Journal.

You know my reaction: Your baby's taste buds have to be trained in the first year of life too. 

I'm glad to see some medical advice that doesn't undermine habits.

Early flavor experiences shape your baby's flavor preferences later in life. Delay the range of flavors your child gets exposed to and you may be increasing the odds she’ll be a picky eater.

Remember Early Vegetable Variety: The French Advantage? Compared to German mothers (and American mothers) the French provide an astonishing amount of variety during weaning. They're more concerned about taste development than allergies. And you know the punch line: their kids eat vegetables, and ours...? Not so much.

Most infants go through a phase where they are open to a wide range of new foods.

This stage starts when they are new eaters and ends around nineteen months – two years. Some kids get a mild case of resistance; other kids get a severe case.

If your kids are still in the “I’ll eat anything phase of life,” take advantage of it. Both mother’s feeding practices (i.e. your habits) and your infant’s willingness to accept a variety of foods track from the first years of life. That means, what you do in the beginning is likely to last a lifetime.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


NIAID-Sponsored Expert Panel. 2010. “Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States: Report of the NIAID-Sponsored Expert Panel.” The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology Volume 126, Issue 6, Supplement, Pages S1-S58, December.

Reddy, Sumathi. “Food Allergy Advice for Kids: Don’t Delay Peanuts, Eggs.” The Wall Street Journal 4 March, 2013., accessed 3/13/13.

Nicklaus, S. 2009. “Development of Food Variety in Children.” Appetite 52: 253-55.