Q: How did you start introducing your son to peanuts?
Justin: When we heard about the LEAP (Learning Early About Peanut Allergy) study, and that it’s possible to greatly reduce the risk of kids developing peanut allergies, we knew we had to try it with Maxwell. After we talked to our pediatrician, I found a lot of comfort in the research. We learned that the new guidelines say that parents should introduce peanut foods early and often, and depending on their child’s risk factors, that could mean as soon as 4–6 months old. Since Maxwell is low-risk, we had more flexibility with when we could begin giving him peanut foods. We started when he was around 5 months, simply mixing powdered peanut butter into his mom’s breast milk and feeding it to him a few times each week. He loves it!
Q: How did you overcome anxiety about introducing common food allergens?
Justin: Emily and I did have some fears about introducing peanuts to Maxwell initially, but at the end of the day I think the best thing we can do as parents is to arm ourselves with knowledge. We knew Maxwell was low-risk, so while it wasn’t necessary to talk to his pediatrician, we chose to make sure we were fully prepared. He assured us that the benefits of introducing peanuts early is worth it, and that helped us overcome any fears or hesitations we had.
Q: What advice do you have for parents who are introducing new foods to their children?
Justin: I hope all parents know that it’s okay to feel hesitation when introducing new foods to your children. It doesn’t make you a control freak or a helicopter parent—it makes you a human. When we become parents our hearts start to exist outside of our bodies and our child’s health and wellbeing becomes everything, so just do your research and follow your heart.
Visit PreventPeanutAllergies.org to learn more about introducing peanuts early. Always consult your child's pediatrician before making dietary changes.
Q: What's been your most embarrassing moment as a dad?
Justin: Haha, when Emily moves the diapers or I can’t find the most basic thing for the kids. I’m like…”Where are her diapers!?” #dadfail. But honestly, for the most part I don’t get embarrassed too often. I’m proud to be their dad even when I make mistakes or I’m walking around with Maxwell’s poop on my shirt without realizing it.
"...we just want to make sure we raise heart-centered, full humans who know how loved they are."
Q: How would you describe your parenting style? Do you and Emily have similar approaches to parenting, or do your differences balance each other out?
Justin: We don’t really have one. We just follow our hearts and intuitions while also trying to learn from other parents whose methods and styles we really respect. Every kid is different, so every parent has to have a different approach to the way they parent. For us, we just want to make sure we raise heart-centered, full humans who know how loved they are.
Q: Based on your TED Talk, how do you empower your children to confidently be themselves?
Justin: Even though it feels a bit backwards, in order for me to empower my children to be themselves, I have to continually be on the journey of growing in my own confidence to be myself. It has to be something I am modeling and not just talking about. From there, I think I can empower them by seeing them, really paying attention, and getting to know them as they get to know the world. I feel like I’m constantly going 500 mph, so I’m working on slowing down and being present when I’m with them. By paying attention, I get to learn about how incredible they are and then use my words and actions to empower and affirm them. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t say that I think they’re helping me be more confidently myself. Children love you just for being—being with them, being present, being playful. They’re continually teaching me incredible lessons.
Q: What inspired you to create the BellyBump app?
Justin: The creative side of me loves capturing moments and documenting our life in a way that allows us to revisit special memories years later. So when Emily and I found out that she was pregnant with Maiya, I knew I wanted to document it. I had seen time-lapse videos done before but I also knew how nuanced and time-consuming the details of making one can be, so we built one! It was a fun little passion project.
"It's the hardest job in the world. Keep going— you got this."
Q: Is there anything else you'd like Parenting readers to know?
Justin: Follow your heart, arm yourself with information, know that you are enough, and that even though it may feel at times like you’re failing...you’re not. In the same way we need to remind our kids that they are loved and enough I think it’s important that as parents we try to do that for ourselves and each other. It’s the hardest job in the world. Keep going—you got this.
His favorite role is being a husband and dad, but Justin Baldoni also stars on Jane the Virgin and is currently directing his first film, Five Feet Apart.