Peanut allergies are one of the most common food allergies in kids, but new research suggests up to 80 percent of these allergies can be avoided if introduced early. Of course, this begs the question: How early? When can babies have peanut butter?
When Can Babies Have Peanut Butter?
Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization, recommend that mothers exclusively breastfeed babies until the age of six months
. After that point, solid foods can be introduced, whether you opt for purees
or baby-led weaning
. Until then, breastfeeding meets all of the nutritional needs for a baby.
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, it’s safe and even encouraged to introduce peanut butter at the six month mark. In fact, waiting to introduce peanut butter can increase your baby’s risk of developing an allergy. (source)
The National Institutes of Health has also issued an addendum to support the most current research on early introduction as a method of preventing peanut allergies. (source)
There’s one caveat. If your baby is at risk for a peanut allergy…
If your baby is at risk for developing a peanut allergy, be sure to check in with your pediatrician before introducing an allergenic food.
Who is at risk?
Babies with family histories of allergies, babies with other allergies, and babies with eczema are at risk for developing food allergies. Specifically, up to 40 percent of babies with moderate to severe eczema will develop food allergies. (source) If this sounds like your child, they may benefit from an allergy test prior to early introduction.
When Can Babies Have Peanuts?
Now you know when can babies have peanut butter, but what about whole peanuts? Do not introduce whole peanuts, either plain or in a trail mix, to babies. Avoid giving whole peanuts, peanut pieces, or other whole nuts to any child under four years of age—whole nuts are a choking hazard. This is also a good reason to skip the chunky versions of peanut butter too.
Why Is It Important to Give Baby Peanut Butter?
Just as important as when can babies have peanut butter is why should babies have peanut butter. Early introduction to peanut butter can reduce the chance of your baby developing a peanut allergy by up to 80 percent. (source)
About three million Americans have nut allergies, and unfortunately, nut allergies are often serious and rarely outgrown. (source) That means your best chance at preventing a food allergy is early and sustained exposure.
Because whole nuts are a no-go, that leaves just peanut butter as your option for introducing this allergen.
How to Introduce Peanut Butter Safely
Now that you know when can babies have peanut butter and why it’s so important to have early, there’s one question left to answer: how should you introduce peanut butter to a baby?
You can make this a smooth introduction by following these tips:
- Introduce peanut butter early, around six months or when your baby shows signs of readiness.
- Introduce only one new food at a time, every 3-5 days. This allows you to pinpoint which food causes a reaction, should a reaction develop).
- Continue to offer that food regularly to your baby. According to the results of the EAT study, sustained exposure is just as important as early exposure when it comes to preventing allergies. (source)
Consider using a program like Ready, Set, Food!
If you find that getting your baby to eat peanut butter is difficult (and messy), you’re not alone. That’s where a program like Ready, Set, Food! comes in handy. This allergist-devised program allows parents to safely introduce the top allergens (peanuts, cow’s milk, and eggs) to young babies. Simply pour pre-measured packet into a bottle (breast milk or formula), and feed baby as normal. You can use this program for six months, or more, depending on when baby begins regularly eating peanut products.
Use real peanut butter sparingly
Peanut butter is often thick and sticky—avoid giving your baby a big bite (e.g. a big spoonful, which is likely to get stuck in their mouth). Instead, try these options for introducing peanut butter:
- Add breastmilk or formula to thin peanut butter, then stir it into oatmeal or simply baby lick a small smear off your (clean) finger or a spoon.
- Mix a little peanut butter into chicken stock or bone broth.
- Whip peanut butter and plain whole milk Greek yogurt to make a “dip” for fruit.
- Use peanut butter powder
How to choose a high quality peanut butter once baby is regularly eating solids
Not all peanut butter is created equally. Splurging on a high quality jar is really important.
First and foremost, skip the chunky varieties. Those crunchy peanut pieces may be yummy, but they are a choking hazard for babies. And when you are scanning the store shelves for a jar of peanut butter, take a hard pass on any conventional jar. Many jars of peanut butter contain sugar, partially hydrogenated oils, and even high fructose corn syrup.
When scanning labels, look for a peanut butter that is:
- Limited in ingredients: The fewer ingredients the better. (You might even want to try the freshly ground peanut butter you can get at stores like Whole Foods.)
- Free of any sugar product
This is a great option. It’s organic, made of just peanuts and salt, and tastes great.