If you’ve heard that you shouldn’t feed your child peanuts for a few years—that’s the old medical recommendation. Now, the National Institute of Health advises introducing peanut-containing food to infants in the first year. And the higher risk your child has of the allergy, the earlier the NIH recommends your baby try peanuts.
The NIH based its new guidelines on King’s College London’s landmark LEAP study (Learning Early About Peanut Allergy) which studied over 600 high-risk infants. Much to their surprise, the doctors found that introducing peanut-containing food early on can prevent the development of peanut allergy in allergy-inclined babies.
Timing Depends on Your Baby’s Risk of Peanut Allergy
If your child has been diagnosed as high risk of the allergy—this is usually because she has eczema, an egg allergy or both—exposing her to peanuts between months 4 and 6 is recommended. But don’t go about this alone! Your pediatrician will be the one deciding if, when and how to introduce peanuts to your high-risk little one, and she needs to have some lab tests first to inform the plan.
The NIH advises children with mild-to-moderate eczema (again, this is something your doctor will determine) have peanut added to their diet at 6 months.
Babies with no food allergies or eczema can try peanut…at almost any time. Just don’t make it their first solid. Peanuts always should come after other solid foods for babies of all risk levels.
To be clear, you should never crack a shell and hand a peanut over to a little baby—large pieces of peanut are a dangerous choking hazard. Even peanut butter out of the jar can be unsafe because its sticky consistency can make it hard to swallow.
Instead, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology recommends mixing 2 tbs. of smooth (not chunky) peanut butter with some hot water to create a baby-friendly goo that can be mixed with a puree of food to thin it. A baby should be fed a spoonful, then watched for 10 minutes for signs of a reaction, before being fed more.
Of course, every baby is different. Before doing any of this, be sure to ask your doctor what’s best for your baby.
Sofia Mandich contributed research to this article.