Introducing peanut foods to infants can seem like a scary step. But when you have the facts and some simple tools, it becomes a manageable and exciting part of your infant’s early eating experiences. Consider this: More than 98% of infants do not develop peanut allergies (less than 2% of children are allergic to peanuts). That means that the vast majority of children can eat peanut foods without any issue at all. What’s more, research has shown that introducing peanut foods early to those infants who are at high risk for developing peanut allergies (those with severe eczema and/or egg allergy) can reduce the risk of developing peanut allergies by up to 86%. So we can say with confidence that most infants will not be allergic to peanut foods and, by introducing peanut foods early, even fewer will go on to develop peanut allergies.
The National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) guidelines divide infants into three groups by risk with recommendations for introduction accordingly. Learn more about introducing solid foods, including peanuts at PeanutAllergyFacts.org. No matter the category infants are in, peanut foods should always be fed to them in age-appropriate ways. But what does that mean?
Infants are still learning to eat and foods should be offered in manageable textures and sizes. For instance, whole peanuts or a spoonful of peanut butter is not easy for an infant to eat, so they can become choking hazards. Instead, parents and caregivers can thin peanut butter with a little breastmilk, formula or warm water, or stir into infant oatmeal for a texture and thickness that babies can easily eat. Powdered peanut butter can also be mixed with liquid, prepared cereal or purees to do the same thing. Two teaspoons fed three times each week is all that is needed to introduce and feed a baby the recommended amount of peanut protein.
If you’re looking for even more convenient ways to introduce peanut foods, there are some exciting and tasty new products on the market!
- The makers of Bamba, the original peanut-corn puff that was used in the studies for early introduction of peanut foods, have partnered with Trader Joe’s. You can now buy Trader Joe’s brand Bamba in their stores. Bamba is also available in many Walmart stores across the country.
- In addition, Puffworks is releasing their new Puffworks Baby brand peanut puff that provides 2g of peanut protein per individual serving sized bag. The infant product is softer than Puffworks original product and melty to ensure that it’s not a choking hazard for infants. Developed in partnership with a pediatrician, Puffworks Baby makes early introduction easy.
- If you’re looking for a pureed product, those are starting to pop up online too. Two products for consideration include MyPeanut™ and Inspired Start™ – both purees that contain fruit and peanuts and/or tree nuts – and, in the case of Inspired Start™, each of the other major allergens too. It’s important to note that MyPeanut™ purees contain the recommended 2g peanut protein per serving (you would need to feed baby 3 pouches per week to achieve the recommended 6g), while Inspired Start™ peanut containing puree contains just 1g/pouch (requiring 6 pouches be consumed per week). All of these products are available at the manufacturers’ websites and via Amazon.
Since peanut foods are supposed to be a regular part of the diet for babies once introduction has happened, each of these products makes it easy to keep peanut foods in the diet of a busy and on-the-go family.
Whatever parents choose to use to introduce peanut foods, the most important thing is to do it. Once parents assess their child’s risk (and see the pediatrician if high risk), peanut foods should be offered “early and often”, starting as early as 4-6 months, to reduce the risk of developing peanut allergies. By implementing the guidelines for early introduction, it is expected that fewer children will have to struggle with the burden of peanut allergy – and that’s great news!