How to Introduce Your Child to Peanuts
by Dr. David Erstein
Pediatricians and allergists now recommend parents and caregivers introduce their infants to peanuts before six months of age. Although it may be difficult for parents to feel comfortable introducing their infants to this potential allergen because of the prevalence of peanut allergies in the U.S., this early introduction is what doctors believe will help prevent peanut allergies from developing.
In 2015, the “Learning Early About Peanut (LEAP)” allergy study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that infants with a high risk for developing allergies who were introduced to peanuts early and continued consumption for five years were 80 percent less likely to develop an allergy as compared to infants who avoided peanuts until they were 5 years old.
On March 4, 2016, two additional studies were released on this topic. The LEAP-On study (a one-year follow-up to the LEAP study) indicated that babies who consumed peanut product early maintained the protective effect of early peanut introduction, even after avoiding peanut products for a year. Moreover, the Enquiring About Tolerance (EAT) study showed that early introduction will help the general population as well as high-risk children. Essentially, early introduction is a win-win!
Here are some tips on how to begin introducing peanuts to your infant:
- If your baby has already started eating stage one foods, he or she should be ready for peanut introduction. Be proactive and ask your pediatrician about beginning the process.
- Before introducing peanuts, figure out if your baby is at high risk for developing a peanut allergy. If your infant already has a food allergy, you or other family members have an allergy, or if your baby suffers from Eczema, he or she will most likely be considered high-risk. In this case, definitely speak with your pediatrician or allergist before introduction.
- When you begin feeding peanuts to your baby, consider introducing peanut in the morning. When introducing this new ingredient early in the day, you are allowing plenty of time to monitor your baby for a reaction. Never introduce new foods before bedtime. Fussiness is a common sign of discomfort, and when introducing peanuts, it is advisable to monitor for other potential symptoms of a reaction throughout the day, such as hives, vomiting, or diarrhea, to name a few.
- Remember that whole or chopped peanuts are a choking hazard, and should never be given to infants. Also, peanut butter is difficult to swallow and shouldn’t be given to infants. While you may consider giving your infant peanut puffs, keep in mind that the EAT study suggests ingesting a minimum of 2 grams of peanut protein per week to achieve the protective effect of early peanut introduction. Two grams of peanut protein is equivalent to 21 peanut puffs, an impractical amount for a young infant to eat. Furthermore, most puffs are not organic and contain unhealthy additives. However, Hello, Peanut! is a USDA organic peanut and sprouted oat blend that can be mixed right into your baby’s stage one foods. It is a simple, controlled solution for peanut introduction for babies as young as 5 months old that is introduced over a period of seven days, where the amount of peanut increases with each day of the process.
- It is always advisable to start small when introducing new foods to your baby. After the first day of introducing peanut product, only continue to give peanuts to your baby if there is no sign of a reaction. If all is clear, feed them slightly more the following day, and continue this process for at least five days. After you have initially introduced peanuts, continue feeding your infant peanuts to help prevent him or her from developing an allergy. The EAT Study indicates that feeding an infant greater than 2 grams of peanut protein a week is associated with a more than 90 percent reduction in a peanut allergy. If you are using Hello, Peanut!, use the Maintenance packets (which contain 1 gram of peanut protein) a few times per week after the introductory phase, until your baby is ready to eat peanut in spread or whole form.
For more information on introducing peanuts to infants, go to hello-peanut.com, follow @HelloPeanut_ on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and meet Hello, Peanut at Maletzky Media’s Babypalooza on July 14!