Food allergies are a concern for many new parents. When they bring a new baby home, parents focus on what they can do to ensure the health of their child. From carefully choosing a pediatrician to picking a firm mattress without bumpers for the crib, debating the pros and cons of various childcare options and whether to breastfeed, parents sift through a wealth of information and advice to make informed decisions about their new baby. But, many parents are anxious about when to introduce peanuts to their child due to anxiety about peanut allergy.
Recent studies have shown that early introduction of peanuts into a baby’s diet can reduce the incidence of peanut allergy. Prior to 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended delayed introduction of peanuts, tree nuts and fish into a typical child’s diet until after three years, but newer data reports that this did not slow the rate of food allergies. In fact, this feeding recommendation may have contributed to an increase in food allergies, especially in infants with eczema. Studies comparing the rates of peanut allergy in Israel and the United Kingdom in similar demographic groups found a much higher rate of peanut allergy in the English children. When examining these groups closer, the Israeli babies are fed a product made of peanut protein, “Bamba,” from 4-6 months of age as a first food.
Updated Guidelines for Introducing Peanuts
Newer recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2019 encourage introducing peanuts into an infant’s diet at 4-6 months of age, as this has been shown to reduce the incidence of peanut allergy up to 80%. In babies with severe eczema or egg allergy, it is advisable to consult with an allergist for testing prior to introducing peanuts as they are at higher risk of peanut allergy.
We recommend peanuts should not be the first solid food, but it should be one of the first foods offered around 4-6 months of age. Since peanuts are a choking hazard and peanut butter is very thick, easy ways to give peanuts are to use powdered peanut protein (found at the grocery store), mix a small amount of peanut butter with breast milk or formula, or mix a small amount of powdered peanut protein or peanut butter with baby food. Peanut protein snacks like “Bamba” are another popular option since they dissolve in the baby’s mouth. We offer a small “taste” of the peanut, wait 15 minutes, and if no reaction, then feed the baby the remaining serving of peanuts. Feeding peanuts is recommended 2-3 times per week following.
While these methods do not prevent all cases of peanut allergy, the incidence is significantly reduced. So, remember to discuss with your pediatrician at your four-month well-child visit whether this is the best way to proceed with feeding your baby.