New Guidelines Suggest Feeding Babies More Peanut-Filled Foods Earlier

updated Sep 30, 2020
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When my son first started eating solid foods, I like to think I was pretty relaxed. I puréed meatloaf or whatever else I made for dinner, gave him the same full-fat yogurt I already kept in the house, and let him have his way with leftover coconut rice.

I was, however, petrified about peanut butter. I waited until his 9-month doctor appointment, and fed him a tiny spoonful under the watchful eye of my pediatrician, lest he have a negative reaction. I had always heard introducing peanuts to babies too early was dangerous, and the last thing I wanted to do was have an allergic reaction on my hands without a medical professional there to take care of it.

According to new research, however, I could have introduced peanuts earlier.

New guidelines published by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases this week urge parents to give their kids peanuts early and often in hopes of preventing peanut allergies, reports The New York Times.

This is a dramatic change in recommendations, considering in 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended withholding peanuts until 3 years of age.

Even with that stringent suggestion, however, peanut allergies continued to be on the rise. A study published in 2015 in the New England Journal of Medicine studied hundreds of Israeli Jewish babies living in both London (where they weren’t typically given peanuts at a young age) and Tel Aviv (where peanut Bamba snacks are typically one of baby’s first solid foods). Some babies were given peanuts from an early age and others were not.

Over the years of the study, “only 1.9 percent of 530 allergy-prone children who had been fed peanuts had developed an allergy, compared with 13.7 percent of the children who were denied peanuts.”

Now, parents are encouraged to give kids foods containing peanut powder even before the 6-month mark if they are low risk. Parents of babies who are at high risk of developing peanut allergies (they tend to have egg allergies or severe eczema) may, with the help and approval of the baby’s health care provider, start giving peanuts at 4 to 6 months of age.

Chairman of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s food allergy committee, Dr. Matthew Greenhawt, tells The New York Times there seems to be “a window of time in which the body is more likely to tolerate a food than react to it, and if you can educate the body during that window, you’re at much lower likelihood of developing an allergy to that food.”

Nobody should give their infants peanuts (they are a choking hazard), but some peanut butter mixed into fruit purée or thinned out with a little warm water are delicious ways to follow these new guidelines.