How to expertly manage your child's food allergies during the holidays—and have peace of mind

Browsing the aisles at any store will remind us all the holiday season is quickly approaching. However, as a mom of two children with severe food allergies, the holiday season also brings added stress.

Every gathering is a risk to the safety of my daughters. As I eye up those delicious home-baked cookies and appetizers, my mind goes to: Are any free of my toddler's allergens? Did a family member just eat that cheese dip and plant a smooch on the baby with a severe dairy allergy?

It is estimated that 4-6% of U.S. children have a food allergy—that equates to 1 in 13 children. The CDC defines a food allergy as a specific and reproducible immune response to a certain food. While the allergy varies among each child, reactions can be mild hives to severe and life-threatening, such as anaphylaxis.

Here are a few tips that can be used to ensure your allergic child is safe during holiday gatherings, while still having fun:

1. Plan ahead and communicate with everyone.

Speak to family and friends prior to the event about what your child might need. Educate them on your child's specific allergen and sources of food that will likely contain the allergen.

Inquire if it is possible to remove the allergen from the menu altogether. If that is not possible, discuss ways to keep it away from your child during the get-together. Possibly designate a "safe" section in the kitchen or place the food on a higher surface, where little fingers can't reach.

2. Bring safe foods with you.

I have found this to be essential in keeping my daughters safe. We are always toting coolers with safe food since you never know when the kids will be hungry. This eliminates the risk of eating something with an allergen, as well as cross-contact, which is when an allergen comes in contact with a food or item that wasn't intended to have it.

3. Monitor your littles at the gathering.

It is so important to maintain supervision of any child with food allergies to ensure they don't consume or come in contact with any allergen, especially if they're younger and don't fully understand the risk.

Educate your child on food safety rules and instruct them to only accept food from a parent or trusted person. You can also inform them that they must check with your prior to eating food as an extra precaution. If your child is old enough to understand the dangers of food allergies, discuss their specific allergen and include them in the safety plan so they know what to do.

4. Have a plan to remove your child from an unsafe environment.

If you are in an environment where your child's safety cannot be ensured, it is essential to remove them from the situation. Your child's health is the priority and loved ones should be understanding of this.

Perhaps you suggest rescheduling the gathering at another time and location, where safety can be maintained. Or, you ask everyone to eat in one room and your little plays in another one so they're not in contact with food.

5. Develop a plan with their pediatrician.

All children and allergens are different so it's best to develop a food allergy protection plan with your child's physician. Ask any questions you have regarding your child's allergens and ways to keep them safe during the holiday season. Their pediatrician can ensure you have everything you need in case of an emergency, such as an EpiPen, and walk you through some options to keep your child safe.

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By its very nature, motherhood requires some lifestyle adjustments: Instead of staying up late with friends, you get up early for snuggles with your baby. Instead of spontaneous date nights with your honey, you take afternoon family strolls with your little love. Instead of running out of the house with just your keys and phone, you only leave with a fully loaded diaper bag.

For breastfeeding or pumping mamas, there is an additional layer of consideration around when, how and how much your baby will eat. Thankfully, when it comes to effective solutions for nursing or bottle-feeding your baby, Dr. Brown's puts the considerations of mamas and their babies first with products that help with every step of the process—from comfortably adjusting to nursing your newborn to introducing a bottle to efficiently pumping.

With countless hours spent breastfeeding, pumping and bottle-feeding, the editors at Motherly know the secret to success is having dependable supplies that can help you feed your baby in a way that matches lifestyle.

Here are 9 breastfeeding and pumping products to help you no matter what the day holds.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's electric pump

For efficient, productive pumping sessions, a double electric breast pump will help you get the job done as quickly as possible. Quiet for nighttime pumping sessions and compact for bringing along to work, this double pump puts you in control with fully adjustable settings.


Hands-Free Pumping Bra

Dr. Brown''s hands free pumping bra

Especially in the early days, feeding your baby can feel like a pretty consuming task. A hands-free pumping bra will help you reclaim some of your precious time while pumping—and all mamas will know just how valuable more time can be!


Manual Breast Pump with SoftShape™ Silicone Shield

Dr. Brown's manual breast pump

If you live a life that sometimes takes you away from electrical outlets (that's most of us!), then you'll absolutely want a manual breast pump in your arsenal. With two pumping modes to promote efficient milk expression and a comfort-fitted shield, a manual pump is simply the most convenient pump to take along and use. Although it may not get as much glory as an electric pump, we really appreciate how quick and easy this manual pump is to use—and how liberating it is not to stress about finding a power supply.


Nipple Shields and Sterilization Case

Dr. Brown's nipple shields

There is a bit of a learning curve to breastfeeding—for both mamas and babies. Thankfully, even if there are some physical challenges (like inverted nipples or a baby's tongue tie) or nursing doesn't click right away, silicone nipple shields can be a huge help. With a convenient carry case that can be sterilized in the microwave, you don't have to worry about germs or bacteria either. 🙌


Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's silicone pump

When you are feeding your baby on one breast, the other can still experience milk letdown—which means it's a golden opportunity to save some additional milk. With a silent, hands-free silicone pump, you can easily collect milk while nursing.


Breast to Bottle Pump & Store Feeding Set

After a lifetime of nursing from the breast, introducing a bottle can be a bit of a strange experience for babies. Dr. Brown's Options+™ and slow flow bottle nipples were designed with this in mind to make the introduction to bottles smooth and pleasant for parents and babies. As a set that seamlessly works together from pumping to storing milk to bottle feeding, you don't have to stress about having everything you need to keep your baby fed and happy either.


Washable Breast Pads

washable breast pads

Mamas' bodies are amazingly made to help breast milk flow when it's in demand—but occasionally also at other times. Especially as your supply is establishing or your breasts are fuller as the length between feeding sessions increase, it's helpful to use washable nursing pads to prevent breast milk from leaking through your bra.


Breast Milk Storage Bags

Dr. Brown's milk storage bags

The essential for mamas who do any pumping, breast milk storage bags allow you to easily and safely seal expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Brown's™ Breast Milk Storage Bags take it even further with extra thick walls that block out scents from other food items and feature an ultra secure lock to prevent leaking.


Watch one mama's review of the new Dr. Brown's breastfeeding line here:

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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