It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything new, and a large reason for that is we welcomed a baby girl to our family! Between pregnancy and being a new mom, there was just no time to focus on this site and write. But I’ve come to an interesting place in motherhood that is very relevant to this site: solid food. While formula wouldn’t necessarily have been kind to my lactose intolerance if I somehow managed to ingest it, it’s not nearly as concerning as starting my daughter on actual solid foods. I have numerous anaphylactic allergies (none of them to top-8 allergens). Because of these allergies, my daughter has a higher likelihood to having food allergies. And not necessarily the same ones I have. Just food allergies in general. So before I get too far into this article, some disclaimers:
- Every baby is different. I’m not saying anyone should imitate how my husband and I are introducing solid foods to our baby. Talk to your pediatrician (as we spoke to ours).
- Recent allergy studies indicate that introducing a baby to solid food early can help prevent allergies. This is not conclusive. Just the most recent study results. These things can always change again, but we’re working with what we have.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests introducing solid foods at six months of age. Again, talk with your pediatrician before making any decisions.
There are two things that terrify me about introducing my daughter to solid food: (1) that she’ll have an allergic reaction; and (2) that I’ll have an allergic reaction.
Taking those one at a time, there’s the concern that she’ll have an allergic reaction to something. I never want my daughter to have that scary experience of anaphylaxis. Never. I called my former pediatric allergist (who’s now mostly retired) to ask for advice. He first told me that I should talk to our pediatrician but also offered some general advice. He said that based on recent research, we should try to start introducing the baby to solids at four months old. He suggested waiting a full week before starting a new food (i.e. sweet potatoes week 1, butternut squash week 2, etc.). He also said that he would start with vegetables or fruits, not baby cereal. When we went to the baby’s four month appointment, we discussed this with our pediatrician. She agreed with what my former pediatric allergist suggested and agreed that the baby was ready to start solids. Both pediatricians let me know that it’s very rare for a baby have an anaphylactic reaction.
My second concern was having a reaction myself. Babies do this fun thing: spitting food back out at you. Our daughter is fairly proficient at it already. For food I’m not allergic to, it’s both cute and annoying. For food I’m allergic to, it’s highly concerning. We were giving her prune juice for a while to help with digestion (per pediatrician’s orders), and that was fine until she got me in the face with some she managed to spit out. Luckily, it was a completely manageable, small reaction. Most of my reactions to fruit are not that small and are significantly scarier. And one reaction isn’t necessarily like the next.
So what did we decide to do? We started solid foods at four months of age and are introducing a new food a week. Her first food was sweet potatoes. So far (two foods in), everything is going great! We decided to introduce vegetables first and are holding out on fruits until we go through most (if not all) of the vegetables on the “first foods” list our pediatrician gave us. I might buy a mask to wear for the fruits, but we’re still going to introduce her to them before six months.
We’re not going to keep her away from trying any food, except apples and celery (which she wouldn’t get until she was much older anyway). Those are my most reactive allergies, and we won’t keep them in the house. She might get them at her grandparents’ house in a controlled environment when she’s older, but not in our house and not now.
Ultimately, it’s still scary. What if she has a reaction? Even if anaphylactic reactions are rare for baby’s, the thought of it is still terrifying. Because there is still a chance, no matter how small. What if I have a reaction? I’ll be sure to keep my epi pen right next to me for things I react to, but anaphylaxis is not a pleasant experience. What if I accidentally scare my daughter away from liking fruit? Babies are surprisingly good at picking up on tension. What if I accidentally scare her with my own nervousness?
These questions and thoughts don’t just go away. I’m sure there are other parents out there thinking the same thing. What if…? This question really doesn’t help anything, but I can’t get it out of my mind. What if…? We’ll take every precaution. Follow every bit of research and advice. And as parents that’s all we can really do. Be as prepared as possible. So that’s what we’ll do.