Introducing peanuts to babies early in life is now the norm, but young parents still have questions.
In January, 2017 The National Institute of Health (NIH) released guidelines telling parents to introduce peanut butter to their babies as young as 4 months old. Even if a baby is high risk for allergies, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) insists it is safe to do so. While the numbers are not yet available, Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the NIAID, says widespread peanut butter introduction will a dramatically decrease the incidence of peanut allergies developing in children.
But an outpouring of concerns about peanuts and babies came soon after the new guidelines were released. “I am concerned about introducing my young baby to peanuts. How will he tell me if there’s something wrong?”
We have answers if you’re still confused.
Parent Questions Answered
Q: “Couldn’t my baby react on a second or subsequent ingestion, even if allergy testing was negative?
A: Yes, says Scott Sicherer, M.D. one of the doctors who helped to craft the new guidelines, acting as a representative of the American Academy of Pediatrics. But it’s not likely. While the guidelines are based upon a major study, Sicherer says introducing peanuts to babies is an opportunity that is worth it from the assessment of data.
Q: I’m breastfeeding and eating peanuts so my baby is getting peanuts through my breast milk. Is that enough?
A: No, Sicherer says. This doesn’t equate to direct feeding. The amount of protein passed to the baby through breast milk is miniscule, so it’s not the same as the baby consuming it.
Q: My baby is in the high-risk category and I want to try to prevent a peanut allergy. What do I do?
A: Talk to your doctor first, Sicherer says.
Q: What should I look for as a possible sign of reaction?
A: Mild symptoms of an allergy include a new rash or hives. If you see these, stop feeding the food and contact your doctor. Severe symptoms include lip swelling, vomiting, hives all over the body, face or tongue swelling, difficulty breathing wheezing, repetitive coughing, change in skin color, sudden fatigue. If this happens to your baby, call 911.
Q: My baby is older than 6 months — is there still a benefit to introducing peanut?
A: Yes! says Sicherer. Don’t avoid peanuts unless your baby is allergic.
How to introduce peanut butter to your baby
According to Jon Hemler, M.D., a Vanderbilt Asthma, Sinus, Allergy Program pediatric allergist and developer of the Vanderbilt food allergy research center, here’s how to introduce peanut butter to your baby:
“Mix two teaspoons of peanut butter and two teaspoons of hot water together, let it cool, and put a little bit on the lips. Wait 10 minutes, then give the rest.”