If you’re wondering (and maybe a little bit anxious) about how to introduce peanuts to your little one, but don’t know where to start, I’ve got you covered. Here’s everything you need to know from a pediatric dietitian!
This post is sponsored in partnership with my friends at the Peanut Bureau of Canada. As always, all opinions are my own.
If you have an older child who was born before 2016, and another child born since, you might have heard different messages on when to introduce peanuts to your baby. You see, the science has changed dramatically over the last five years. The good news? It’s a whole lot easier now, and we know a lot more about peanut allergy and early exposure.
When to introduce peanuts (hint: it has changed!)
Up until recently, the recommendation for introducing peanuts was to wait until after age three. But new research prompted the US National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases (NIAID) to publish updated guidelines in 2016. The Canadian Paediatric Society followed suit in 2019 with their updated recommendations on the specific timing of allergenic foods for infants. The Canadian guidelines follow the advice from NIAID too.
We now know that delaying the introduction of all allergens, including peanuts, isn’t necessary. In fact, it’s safe and beneficial to introduce peanuts as early as 4 to 6 months of age, even for babies at a high risk of developing a food allergy. Research has unveiled that exposure to peanuts may prevent allergies from developing. Interesting, hey?!
How to introduce peanuts:
Of course, you can’t just pop a full-sized peanut into your baby’s mouth because that would be a choking hazard.
Whole peanuts should not be given to children less than 5 years of age, according to NIAID. A spoonful of sticky peanut butter is also a no-no at this age.
But you can introduce ground, powdered and spreadable peanut products, or peanut flour, as part of baby’s first solid foods. Here are some ideas:
- Add creamy peanut butter to a bowl and thin it with some breastmilk. Feed a small amount (about the size of a pea) to baby using a spoon.
- Swirl some creamy peanut butter or peanut powder into fortified baby cereal, pureed fruit, yogurt or oatmeal.
- Cut toast into thin strips and add a very thin layer of peanut butter.
- Try easy-to-dissolve peanut puffs such as Bamba or Puffworks Baby. NIAID suggests softening the puffs in water for babies less than 7 months of age.
- Buy specially formulated baby food pouches that already have peanuts added to them.
After you’ve introduced peanuts to your baby at 4-6 months of age, your job isn’t done. You need to keep offering peanuts, since repeat exposure is part of the process.
Signs of a peanut allergy
Introducing peanuts for the first time can cause some anxiety and uneasiness (don’t worry – this is normal!), but consider these statistics: only about 2% of children have a peanut allergy, which means that 98 percent of children don’t have a peanut allergy. Those are good odds. Inhale, exhale.
Stop offering peanuts and consult your doctor if peanut exposure causes any of these symptoms:
- Lip, tongue or face swelling
- Repetitive coughing
- Change in skin color (pale, blue)
You may be wondering if the rules are different for kids with a family history of food allergies, other allergies (such as egg allergy) or eczema. Here’s the official stance from NIAID:
If your baby has severe eczema, an egg allergy, or both, they are at higher risk for a peanut allergy.
In this case, introduce peanut-containing foods as early as 4 to 6 months to reduce the risk. If you are concerned about trying this, you can do it at the doctor’s office in case of a reaction. Double check with your pediatrician first. Some suggest an allergy test BEFORE introducing peanuts, since testing may indicate that peanuts should not be introduced at all because your child may already have an allergy.
If your baby has mild to moderate eczema:
If your baby has mild to moderate eczema introduce peanut-containing foods around 6 months of age to reduce the risk of developing a peanut allergy. Your doctor can tell you whether your child’s eczema is mild to moderate. You may then choose to introduce peanut-containing foods at home or in a doctor’s office if you prefer.
If your baby does not have eczema or other food allergies:
If your baby does not have eczema or other food allergies, freely introduce peanut-containing foods when you introduce other solids at 6 months. This can be done at home together with other solid foods.