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When Can Babies Have Peanut Butter?

The recommendations for introducing new foods to your baby have changed. Learn when to start peanut butter with your baby and easy ways to add it to his diet.

Almost 5% of children younger than five years old have a food allergy. Peanuts are one of the most common food allergies in children and a peanut allergy is one allergy they may not outgrow.

In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) highlighted that there is no research to support the recommendation for young children to avoid peanuts to prevent a peanut allergy.

Before that date, {back when my babies were babies}, to prevent a peanut allergy the recommendation was to hold off on introducing peanuts until kids were at least 4 years old.

It’s critical for children allergic to peanuts to avoid peanut butter and peanut products. However, in recent years, the research around peanut allergy prevention has blossomed and we now have clear guidelines to prevent peanut allergy.

So, when can babies have peanut butter and peanuts?

Peanut allergy prevention happens in the highchair.

Learn how to introduce peanuts and peanut protein safely to your baby and how introducing peanuts to babies may reduce the risk of allergy to this common allergen.

Learn how to introduce peanuts and peanut protein safely to your baby and how introducing peanuts to babies may reduce the risk of allergy to this common allergen.

When Can Babies Have Peanut Butter?

As long as peanuts don’t present a choking hazard, parents can introduce them after one year of age. {This was true with the other highly allergenic foods such as egg, fish, tree nuts, etc}.

According to recommendations published by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), children should be introduced to peanuts in the first year of life as it reduces the risk of developing a peanut allergy.

For all babies, the target age for peanut introduction is around 6 months and before 12 months of age. However, there are some caveats, especially for those babies who are at high-risk for developing a peanut allergy.

These recommendations have been extended to the big 8 food allergens so that children are less likely to develop food allergies.

Introducing Peanut Butter To Your Baby and Allergy Prevention

In the world of allergies and pediatrics, the buzz is all about peanut allergy guidelines.

Peanut allergy data shows that it’s critical to feed baby peanuts as soon as he is ready. These new studies fly in the face of previous standard food allergy prevention practices.

Are you surprised by the headlines? Does it seem too good to be true?

Let’s look at some studies that have changed the recommendations about introducing peanuts and peanut allergy prevention.

What Does the LEAP Study Tell Us?

In the LEAP study (Learning Early About Peanut Allergy), UK researchers looked at the incidence of peanut allergy in young children starting at ages 4 to 11 months (enrollment) and up through age 5 years.

Babies already sensitive to peanuts were divided into two groups: One group consumed peanut products at least 3 times a week (6 grams of peanut protein, which is equivalent to 24 grams of peanuts or 3 teaspoons of peanut butter per week).

The other group completely avoided peanut products for the first 5 years of life.

The results of the study showed that the kids who AVOIDED peanuts in the first 5 years of life had a 13.7% prevalence of peanut allergy and those who ate peanuts in the first 5 years of life had a 2% prevalence of peanut allergy.

Big difference!

In the high-risk infants who showed a positive skin prick test to peanut at the start of the study, 35.3% of those infants who avoided peanuts had a peanut allergy, while 10.6% of those who ate peanuts had a peanut allergy.

Another big difference!

When peanuts were introduced between 4 and 11 months of age, a significant reduction of peanut allergy occurred.

The AAP in partnership with other leading organizations has put together guidelines for using this new research.

There’s been swift movement by major organizations.

These findings about peanut allergy are encouraging—even promising.

Thankfully, several other studies have rolled out supporting the early introduction of peanuts between ages 6 months and one year to prevent peanut allergy.

Are Peanut Allergy Prevention Efforts Fail-Proof?

Some children had peanut allergies during the study, showing that early introduction isn’t fail-proof.

Peanut allergy can still develop despite attempts at prevention.

This study included high-risk infants with minimal or negative skin prick test responses to peanut.

What about low-risk kids?

Read more about the different strategies for introducing peanuts to kids with a low- or high-risk for peanut allergy in this article: How To Introduce Peanuts to Your Baby.

How to Introduce Peanut Butter to Your Baby

Peanut butter is universally available in the grocery store and is an easy product for introducing peanut protein.

Typically, you’ll want to begin with 1-2 teaspoons per day and build from there. If your baby has no symptoms, you can offer peanut butter and other peanut products as part of your baby’s regular diet.

Remember to keep the form of peanut age-appropriate.

Here are three ways to use peanut butter with your baby:

  1. Offer peanut butter straight off the spoon: Thin peanut butter out with warm water and feed it to your baby with a spoon.
  2. Mix peanut butter into other foods: Add a small amount of peanut butter to warm cereal or pureed fruits and veggies. Once you introduce yogurt to your baby, you can add peanut butter to that, too.
  3. Add peanut butter to baked goods: Stir peanut butter into your sweet bread, pancake, waffle and muffin batters.

Get creative as your baby’s diet expands, including peanut butter in smoothies and soups.

A Word on Baby Choking

“Will my baby choke?”

Offering peanut butter, peanuts, or other peanut products to your baby can be scary and counter-intuitive. Common sense tells us yes, it’s quite possible for your baby to choke on peanut butter or whole peanuts.

Chopped or whole peanuts are a choking hazard for your baby. Your baby has no teeth so he cannot grind, mash or chew peanuts. Peanut butter is thick and difficult to manipulate in the mouth for inexperienced eaters.

Therefore, it’s critical to alter the form of peanuts so your baby is safe when you introduce peanut products.

There are several forms of peanut protein you can use to introduce peanut to your baby safely.

Peanut Powder for Babies

Peanut powder is made from defatted peanuts, crushed into a powder. You can stir this into cereal, yogurt (if you’ve already introduced this food), pureed fruit or veggies, or incorporate it into baked goods.

Peanut Butter Puffs for Babies (Bamba)

Peanut butter puffs were originally popular in Israel. Similar to a cheese puff, it melts in your baby’s mouth. You can find this in the grocery store or online.

How Do I Know If My Baby Is Allergic to Peanut Butter?

If your baby doesn’t have eczema or an egg allergy, she is considered at low risk for peanut allergy. You can start peanut butter or another form of peanut around 6 months (ideally between 4-6 months of age, per the guidelines), and you can do this at home. Be sure to be with your baby through this process.

Your baby is considered at moderate risk for developing a peanut allergy if he has mild eczema. You can still introduce peanut butter or another form of peanut around 6 months and do it at home. Basically, use the same guidelines outlined above for low-risk babies.

If your baby has an egg allergy or severe eczema, she is considered at high risk for developing a peanut allergy. It’s still recommended to expose your baby to peanut allergens between the ages of 4 and 6 months, but you need to talk with your doctor first.

Your pediatrician may perform a blood test to determine the risk level for developing peanut allergy so that you and your pediatrician can decide about when and where to offer peanut.

If your baby shows high sensitivity to peanut, it doesn’t mean he’s allergic to it. Your doctor may decide that it’s best to introduce peanuts to prevent the allergy from developing. This is something you may do under medical supervision.

[Want to know exactly how to introduce solids to your baby? Read my book: The Smart Mom’s Guide to Starting Solids]

What Are the Symptoms of a Peanut Allergy?

It’s important to recognize the symptoms of a peanut allergy, especially when you are in the early stages of introducing peanut butter and other peanut products.

The symptoms range from a runny nose to anaphylaxis, a life-threatening total body reaction that requires immediate care.

Anaphylaxis includes difficulty breathing, swelling in the throat, a sudden drop in blood pressure, pale skin or blue lips, fainting and dizziness.

Anaphylaxis requires urgent help and epinephrine is often the treatment. If you suspect anaphylaxis, seek medical help immediately.

Other symptoms of peanut allergy include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain and/or cramping
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Repetitive coughing, clearing of the throat, tightness in the throat, or hoarse voice
  • Weak pulse
  • Pale skin
  • Swelling of the tongue, lips, and/or eyes
  • Hives
  • Dizziness, confusion

If you note any of these symptoms after introducing peanut, call your doctor and report them.

Wrapping Up

If you have little ones (or even big ones), these peanut recommendations may be frightening.

For one, it goes against everything you’ve been told about serving peanuts to little kids and the potential for developing a peanut allergy.

Even more worrisome, anaphylaxis can be deceptive, even silent, in a very young child. Parents may not recognize what is happening to their child before it’s too late.

Even I misread my son’s first allergic reaction to tree nuts (way back when)—and I am versed in food allergies and allergic reactions.

Parents will need more education about how to recognize and treat a food allergy reaction.

As a pediatric nutritionist, I know there’s power in knowing what you can and cannot give your baby to eat in the first year of life. Your job is to build a variety of food preferences so that it’s easy to develop good eating habits in the future.

If you’re nervous and want more guidance, seek medical advice from your pediatrician {or at least do some independent research} before taking steps to introduce peanuts into your child’s diet.

What do you think about this new research?

Have you given your baby peanut butter? How did it go?

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