By Allison Venditti
Our food introduction journey with Inspired Start started in May of 2017, but in reality it started the moment the boxes arrived at our door. I have 2 older boys, aged 6 (allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, egg and soy) and 4 (allergic to peanuts) and we have NONE of their allergens in our home. So as you can imagine, bringing baby food containing 8 common allergens through our doors demanded a discussion.
I sat down with the box and had my sons read over the ingredients. We talked about why we had to give the baby this food and how I would be doing it. The boys were eager to talk about it — having the allergens in sealed pouches made discussion and handling a breeze. My 4-year-old was turning the pouches over in his hands. My 6-year-old was reading the box. We decided that we would keep the boxes above the fridge with a big sign that says CONTAINS FOOD ALLERGENS so that anyone who didn’t live in our house (babysitters, grandma) would know.
We also decided that I would do most of the introduction while they were at school in order to minimize my stress. This would allow me to fully focus on the baby, watch for any allergy symptoms, and act quickly in case there was a reaction.
The final decision was that the pouch we were currently introducing would be put in a plastic ziploc bag with a baby spoon and this would be the only item in our house they were not to eat. Everyone seemed pretty okay with it all. Questions were answered and I was ready to go.
Being “ready to go” actually took me two weeks to get to. I had EVERY intention of starting as soon as my baby showed interest in food, but then I got anxious. Anxious about the “what ifs,” anxious about the “how.” I will say, though, having these pouches has eased a lot of that anxiety.
After my oldest had multiple anaphylactic reactions when he was a baby, introducing allergenic foods to my second was a bit of a nightmare. Take egg, for example. It required ninja-like skill and ALL SORTS of expenses. I bought a separate pan, 12 eggs (but threw out 11 of them), and disposable plates. Then I fed him the items either outside on the deck or near the emergency room at the hospital.
My biggest struggle before had been how to get things like sesame without any cross-contamination with other allergens. A sesame bagel may also have soy or egg in it. A seeded cracker would have wheat, etc. I can already tell that Inspired Start makes it SOOOOOO easy. No cross contamination, no mixed allergens. Just clarity. Just say I were feeding my son the pear & sesame pouch today. Hives or reaction? BINGO, it would have been sesame.
With my oldest we had worksheets, spreadsheets, photos of labels, and ended up playing “guess what the reaction was to” with our allergist. It was a LOT to keep track of. This time feels different. So here we go!
May 14: We decided on apple & wheat. Why? Because neither of my kids is allergic to wheat, so it made me feel confident that this intro would go well. And guess what — it did! I simply popped open the pouch and gave him 7 little spoons over a 10-minute period. Even though wheat felt ‘safe,’ we were still watching him like a hawk. Tomorrow, I won’t feed it to him so close to bedtime — that made me a bit anxious — but no reaction. Tomorrow will be another day!
May 15: Day 2 of apple & wheat. Nothing to report.
May 17: Day 3 of apple & wheat. I am taking sort of a long time to introduce each item. My oldest son had a reaction the third time we gave him mango, so we are just being extra cautious 🙂
May 18: Day 4 of apple & wheat — still nada.
May 19: My husband told me we can probably now safely assume that we are 90% in the clear. I think he is right, but remind him that it’s also important to keep these allergens in our littlest’s diet as he continues to grow
May 21: The next item to pick was a bit of a struggle as ALL of them one of my children has had a reaction to. I waffled around all morning and then my husband said: “Just do soy.” So that is the highly rationalized reason we introduced soy next. My oldest son is anaphylactic to soy, so we did it on a day when my husband was home and one of my other kids was at a friend’s house. We did it VERY, VERY slowly.
The first serving from the mango & soy pouch was about the size of half a dime. 10 minutes later, about a dime’s worth, and then a third serving of the same size 10 minutes after that.
It was pretty stressful, but not nearly as stressful as introducing it to my second. When we were done, we just put the pouch and the spoon into a ziploc bag and put the bib he used in the wash with some towels that we were bleaching 🙂
Again, we were really impressed with how easy it was to keep the allergen contained — especially now that we were getting into the allergens that we avoid in our house.
It is going to be a day or two before the next try (because I am working for two days and still not quite ready to have a caregiver do the introduction).
My strategy for all the future feedings is to do it while my kids are at school and in the morning — so that I have time to watch for reactions before he goes down for a nap. My husband has his cell phone on his desk in the morning in case I need to call. We are still on guard but the decision on how to introduce and the knowledge that it’s just one allergen at a time is AMAZING! And it has definitely taken away a big chunk of the stress.
June 1: Second feeding of mango & soy. We still gave him tiny amounts at 10-minute intervals. We are happy to say there is nothing to report 🙂
June 2: Mango & soy again! After we were finished (we figured 3 times is a good number), my husband and I discussed how we’d love to continue to buy the pouches (if they become available in Canada soon) to make sure that we are continuing to feed the baby my other son’s allergens.
That has actually been a huge struggle for us. With our second, we did not know how to safely continue to feed him allergens other than taking him out of the house (which was really hard with a baby and a toddler). For us, these pouches will make that very, very easy for the first few years. We will see how it goes with the other allergens as we introduce them.
June 8: Pear & egg. This was my husband’s choice. I am feeling much more anxious now that peanuts and tree nuts are moving ever closer.
The good part is that my son is an enthusiastic eater and is still only 5.5 months old, so I feel like I am ahead of the introduction game. At the same time, we have been doing some baby-led feeding — he likes to hold and chew carrots and celery, and recently had a strawberry, which he just gnawed on.
With my other boys, it was very stressful to have to separate them and take my youngest out of the house, clean him off, etc. to make sure he was getting exposure to potentially allergenic foods. Now I just plan to do it in the house and (hopefully!) buy more pouches while he is an infant. I keep asking myself: WHY DID THIS NOT EXIST THREE YEARS AGO?? 🙂
NOTE: We ended up doing the pear & egg pouch 3 times in 2 days. As we move through the process, we are getting more confident (we shall see when we get to peanuts). We did the first intro of eggs in the morning and the second intro in the afternoon — and then the final one on the morning of June 9th.
We ended up taking about a month-long break, as one of my older children had a reaction to eggs after an accidental exposure outside the home. It takes us a bit of time to recover emotionally, and also we needed to re-discuss with everyone that we were still all okay continuing to do this at home (and most importantly, that my son was okay with it).
Now, I have all three kids at home during the day as I am not working full-time this summer. So we decided that introductions would only happen on the weekends. That way, should the need arise, we would have 2 adults present.
July 7 & 8: We are surprisingly not that concerned about sesame (although it is one of my oldest son’s allergens). We did a quick intro with the pear & sesame pouch Saturday morning and again on Saturday afternoon, then a final introduction on Sunday… AND THAT WAS IT!
I feel pretty good about the whole thing so far. We have had many successful introductions, and both my husband and myself are very pleased with the whole experience.
On Sunday, though, we looked at each other and knew that our next introduction would be peanuts.
July 21 & 22: Okay, so it didn’t happen on July 14th as planned. We ended up being out of the house all day on Saturday, and we are really comfortable with our Saturday/Sunday introduction since we get 2 full days and 3-4 opportunities to introduce the food.
Saturday morning, my husband volunteered to feed the baby the first serving. (This is shocking as he has never wanted to do it first!) It was time to do peanuts.
We introduced peanuts with the same process we had done the other allergens, using the apple & peanut pouch. The whole process took about 40 minutes (4 spoonfuls with 10 minutes in between). It was also the first time we had done an introduction where my older kids looked a bit stressed. My oldest, who was eating breakfast, picked up his bowl and moved to the other side of the table while we were feeding the baby.
We had a discussion about the fact that we eat next to other people who eat our allergens and that he didn’t need to worry, but that I would let him know as soon as we were finished and put it away.
Other than that, it went without issue!
We did a second attempt the next day (Sunday) as well as the next weekend. So 3 exposures and no reactions!
August 8: Now that peanuts has been crossed off the list, both my husband and I are feeling even more confident. Banana & tree nuts, banana & shrimp, and mango & cod are the only ones that remain, so banana & tree nuts is up next.
Our only concern with the banana & tree nuts pouch is that it is some mixed nuts, and there is no pouch for the other ones. That would be our only recommendation: to do the tree nuts one at a time or at least offer another pouch or two so that ALL tree nuts (brazil, walnut, etc.) are all covered in this system.
August 11 & 12: We spent the weekend introducing the banana & tree nuts pouch, and again there were no reactions to report.
August 16: I brought a pouch of mango & cod to the park and fed it to my baby while his brothers played. No fuss, no mess — and I feel like a bit of a rock star for balancing that. The pouches make it that easy.
All that is left is banana & shrimp, and we aren’t too worried about introducing this last one to him. I’ll be sure to report back since I’ll be introducing this common allergen to ALL 3 of my kids. Yep, that’s right. None of my children have ever ingested shrimp — maybe that’s because their dad has a shrimp allergy, which adds a whole other level of anxiety and complexity. Stay tuned for part 2 of my family’s Inspired Start journey…
Final thoughts: We have now introduced the common allergens to all 3 of our children. With my first 2, we were “freewheeling” it — attempting to find non cross-contaminated food, etc. and spending hours trying to keep the allergenic foods “contained.” Inspired Start has been a game changer. It reduced the stress of having allergens in our house (for myself, my husband and my allergic kids), and made the process organized and easy.
Most importantly, it provided us with a way to continue to feed our youngest the 8 common allergens. With our second, our allergist stressed the importance of continuing to feed him top allergens. We struggled, and often didn’t follow through on her recommendation, as I felt uncomfortable doing it with my oldest’s multiple allergies. There was no safe way for me to keep feeding my second these common allergens — unless I took him out by myself, fed him and cleaned him all up before I came home.
My plan is to continue to use the Inspired Start pouches until they run out — using a couples of boxes a month to make sure that the baby (as well as my middle child) are continuing to be exposed even though we don’t have many of the common allergens in our house.
Allison Venditti is the mom of 3 little boys, 2 of whom are allergic to various foods. She founded a local support group after her first son was diagnosed with food allergies in the double digits. She is also the mamapreneur behind careerlove.ca.
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