Beginning today, I’m introducing 1,000 new foods in as many days to my 7-month-old twins with a focus on finger food first. My goal is to challenge our family to explore new tastes and cultures and to ensure I never get in the rut I found myself in with my firstborn, where I served bananas, avocado, and cheese on an endless rotation.
Why 1,000? In part because I felt like I needed a number to stay true the challenge, and in part because a thousand days would take us past the twins’ third birthday, forcing me to continue offering a variety of foods through the picky eating years of toddlerhood. My hope is that the more flavors, textures, and spices the babies are exposed to early on, the more likely that they will grow up with an appreciation for a wide variety of food.
Many doctors and websites advise parents to wait three to five days between introducing new foods to babies to see if there is an adverse reaction. As an allergy mom myself (my three-year-old has life-threatening allergies to tree nuts, sesame seeds, and some herbs), I take this stuff seriously. I’ve been to the emergency room seven times with my son, and I’ve had to stab him in the thigh with an EPI pen twice. I know what it’s like to live in constant fear of food. Yet I also know that allergic reactions don’t show up three or four days later. If your baby has a food allergy, they are likely to show symptoms of an allergic reaction within two to three hours—if not minutes—after consuming the allergen. You can’t miss it.
Many allergists and pediatricians today are now recommending you introduce common food allergens early, citing a growing body of evidence that the early introduction of allergens plays a key role in preventing food allergies later on. Further, there is evidence that regular exposure to common food allergens is important for maintaining a tolerance to those foods.
While the guideline of waiting a couple of days after introducing common food allergens is absolutely useful for the 8% of children with food allergies (or those babies with family histories of food allergies), there is no evidence-based research that demonstrates a need to wait multiple days after introducing one food and then the next. In fact, many pediatric feeding experts are now recommending parents introduce a wide variety of food before baby turns one.
Over the years it seems our culture around feeding babies has become increasingly fear-based. My hope is that our #1000foods challenge inspires parents let go of some of the rigid, dated advice on feeding babies and, hopefully, to think outside of the banana-apple-sweet potato box.
Because a world of adventure awaits.
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