The recommendations for introducing new foods to your baby have changed. Learn exactly when to start peanut butter with your baby along with ways to easily add it to his diet.
Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies in children. Avoidance of peanut butter and peanut products is critical for children who are allergic.
However, in recent years, the research around peanut allergy prevention has blossomed and we now have clear guidelines to prevent peanut allergy.
Peanut allergy prevention happens in the highchair.
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.
When Can Babies Have Peanut Butter?
According to recommendations published by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), it’s desirable to introduce peanuts in the first year of life as it reduces the risk for developing a peanut allergy.
For all babies, the target age for peanut introduction is around 6 months. However, there are some caveats, especially for those babies who have elevated risk for food allergies.
What is the Risk for Developing Peanut Allergy?
If your baby doesn’t have eczema or an egg allergy, she is considered 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.
If your baby has mild eczema, he’s considered to be at moderate risk for developing peanut allergy. You can still introduce peanut butter or another form of peanut around 6 months and do it at home. Basically, use the same guidance 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 considered desirable 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 a decision can be made 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 go ahead and introduce peanut 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]
Know the Peanut Allergy Symptoms
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 range of symptoms include 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 is often treated with epinephrine. If you suspect anaphylaxis, seek medical assistance immediately.
Other symptoms of peanut allergy include:
- Stomach pain and/or cramping
- 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
- Dizziness, confusion
If you note any of these symptoms after introducing peanut, call your doctor and report them.
A Word on Baby Choking
Offering peanut butter, peanuts, or other peanut products to your baby can be scary. And counter-intuitive.
I’m often asked, “Will my baby choke?”
Common sense tells us yes, it’s quite possible for your baby to choke on peanut butter or peanuts.
Whole or chopped 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, young eaters.
Therefore, it’s critical to alter the form of peanuts so that your baby can be exposed to peanut protein and be safe.
Safe Forms of Peanut Protein for Baby
There are several forms of peanut protein you can use to introduce peanut to your baby.
Available online and in some grocery stores, peanut flour is made up of 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 Puffs (Bamba)
A peanut butter puff 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 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:
- Offer peanut butter straight off the spoon: Thin peanut butter out with warm water and feed it to your baby with a spoon.
- Mix peanut butter into other foods: Add a small amount of peanut butter to warm cereal or pureed fruits and veggies. Once your baby has been introduced to yogurt, you can add peanut butter to that, too.
- 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.
Have you given your baby peanut butter? How did it go?