This post is in response to some new research that suggests that instead of starting infants on solid foods around 6 months of age, it would be better to start around 3 months of age with the intention that they’d be less likely to develop allergies to the most common allergens later in life.
I don’t agree… Keep reading to understand why.
There are lots of articles with conflicting information about the ideal time to introduce new foods to infants, especially the foods that are the most common allergens. It has been standard of care for many years to hold off on giving infants anything other than formula or mother’s milk for the first 6 months of life.2 This premise has since been challenged…
Summary of said article1:
This article was exploring if the early introduction of allergenic foods in breast-fed babies would prevent allergies as they grew older. They did this by recruiting 1303 woman with 3-month-old infants who were nursing and split them into two groups: Exclusive nursing until infants are 6 months old and early introduction of common allergenic foods (peanut, cooked egg, cow’s milk, sesame, whitefish, and wheat).1 The outcome was to see if there were food allergies that had started between 1-3 years of age (in one group vs the other) using the standard skin prick allergy test.
The result: The trial did not prove efficacy in verifying the early introduction of allergenic foods in preventing food allergies for the child as toddlers.1 There are other studies trying to prove this point with varying degrees of success.
I am disturbed with this research on two accounts:
- Although in this article the authors went out of their way to verify that there were no deaths and that the protocols used were verified as safe by multiple ethics committees, they did not disclose (that I could find) exactly how the foods were administered to the infants. (Perhaps in the form of extracts?) I don’t see this as prudent, safe, or ethical to give fish/wheat/peanuts/etc. to a 3-month-old infant! Although I understand and acknowledge the need for research, I don’t believe in experimenting on babies for something of this nature.
- The common allergens, for the most part, are foods that I don’t recommend anyway (with the exception of organic whole soybeans/edamame). Peanuts contain aflatoxins (see this blog), animal products bring countless issues, most people who eat gluten or wheat are doing it in the form of processed foods … none of which I would recommend to anyone, let alone a 3-month-old baby!
So why am I sharing this random rant with you?
Again, 2 reasons:
- First, for those of you who may be pregnant, intending to get pregnant, have an infant (or know anyone in these stages of life), I want you to be informed. I would guess in the next year or so there will be more information about how you should start introducing these foods sooner rather than later. Don’t fall for it!
- I am a scientist and I love research … when it’s done with careful integrity and a holistic view of the potential impact on the entire being. Even legit research can be manipulated or can prove a point (and even look heroic) but not take into account all the other factors. For example, let’s say introducing these foods was found to reduce allergies in 3-month-old infants. Is that our only goal? Does it also increase the chances of choking? Does it damage digestive capacity? Are they more likely to become addicted to these substances or have trouble with obesity later in life? We don’t know the answer to these questions … and until we do, we can’t experiment on our babies!
Thanks for hearing me on this. If we can help you, don’t hesitate to reach out! We will continue to protect future generations at all costs.
- Perkin MR, Logan K, Tseng A, et al. Randomized Trial of Introduction of Allergenic Foods in Breast-Fed Infants. N Engl J Med. 2016. doi:10.1056/nejmoa1514210
- Clayton HB, Li R, Perrine CG, Scanlon KS. Prevalence and reasons for introducing infants early to solid foods: Variations by milk feeding type. Pediatrics. 2013. doi:10.1542/peds.2012-2265