I have three girls — ages 7, 6, and 4. The first two were diagnosed with their food allergies very young, so when I became pregnant with my third, I groaned thinking about the kinds of allergies baby #3 would have. With a combined list of a whopping 9 allergies, the thought of adding more to the list seemed daunting.
The first year of her life, I breastfed my kid without food allergies and kept her away from milk and nuts (this was the doctor recommendation at the time, but is no longer the standard). As she’s gotten bigger, she’s largely had the same diet as her sisters: Sunbutter in her sandwiches, rice milk in her cereal, and vegan cake on her birthday.
Recent allergy testing showed that Minnie (our third) is in the clear, *with* the warning that if we don’t start regularly feeding her all of the things her sisters are allergic to — peanuts, tree nuts, soy, sesame, milk, egg, coconut, poppy, and mustard — she very well may develop a food allergy.
Here are some steps we’ve implemented to A) ensure that Min won’t get food allergies without B) endangering her sisters with food allergies.
1. Take advantage of one-on-one time. As working parents of three, my husband and I struggle to find solid one-on-one time with each of our kids, but this serves as fresh motivation. One of us will take her to breakfast and order a few things on the allergy list for her to try.
2. Send it to school. Min’s preschool is nut-free but not dairy-free, so we can send along yogurt (either dairy or coconut) along with veggies and hummus (tahini has sesame) without endangering anyone in her class.
3. Buy self-contained snacks. Instead of a jar of peanut butter, we’ll do a granola bar. Instead of macaroni and cheese on the stove, we’ll do individual cups of cottage cheese with a disposable spoon. It limits the amount of utensils and cookware touching allergens, thus mitigating the risk of cross-contamination. We also keep these snacks high up and far away from the regular food, clearly labeled, and we make sure to clue in babysitters and family members that the cabinet is off-limits.
4. Wipe, wipe, wipe, wipe, wipe. (To the tune of Rihanna’s Work, if you want.) After we eat, we wipe mouths, hands, and surfaces. I’ve spoken of my true love for baby wipes before, but of course a solid hand-washing and a table scrub down does the trick, too.
These safeguards don’t, however, prepare me for the weird mental battle of feeding my child what has deemed to be poison for my other children. Am I really going to give her peanut butter right now??? Am I really giving her a bite of a sesame bagel???
When you’ve spent years reading ingredient labels and avoiding foods, there’s a bit of a mental hurdle I had to make myself jump over, even though I *know* doing this is good for her. Needless to say, I still make sure an EpiPen is close by before she takes a bite of my Nutella french toast. Just in case.
I very well may never be deprogrammed. ::robot noises::