What You Need to Know About Babies and Peanut Butter

When and How to Introduce an Infant to Peanut Butter and How to Spot an Allergy

A child eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
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Do you wonder whether it's safe to give your baby peanut butter? The recommendations for this have changed significantly over the years. Today, both the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) say it is acceptable to introduce peanut butter or paste to babies between 4 months and 6 months of age. They do not recommend delaying the introduction of peanut products to reduce allergy risk.

However, whole nuts can be a choking hazard for babies, so peanut butter is okay while peanuts are not.

Changing Attitudes Towards Peanut Butter for Babies

For years, parents were told that babies and peanut butter just don't mix. In fact, it was common practice to hold off introducing any nuts (including peanut butter) until age 3. Research on the timing of introducing peanuts has had conflicting results. However, a large study in Israel, where peanuts are often introduced when babies are less than 4 months old, found that early introduction of peanut protein actually decreases the risk of developing a ​peanut allergy. Some studies have also found that in non-allergic expecting mothers, eating peanuts while pregnant may reduce the risk of a peanut allergy for children.

How to Introduce Peanut Butter to Your Baby

Peanut butter can be a healthy addition to your baby's diet as soon as he's ready to try solid foods.

Start with a small spoonful and don't mix it with other first foods (fruits, veggies, cereals, meats). Be sure to introduce your little one to peanut butter at home and watch closely for any allergic reactions. If you spot any signs of a peanut allergy (see below), call your pediatrician right away.

And, of course, if your infant is having difficulty breathing, dial 911. Also, it is important to never give a child under 3 years of age whole peanuts because these pose a choking hazard.

Signs of a Peanut Allergy

With all that said, be aware that a peanut allergy can be severe, lifelong and potentially deadly, triggering a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis in some children.

The AAP groups the symptoms into the following categories. These signs can appear in just minutes or they make take hours, so be watchful during this time and do not wait to call 911 or your health care provider. Call immediately!

Skin Problems

  • Hives (red spots that resemble mosquito bites)
  • Skin rashes (eczema, also called atopic dermatitis)
  • Itching or tingling (in or around the mouth and throat)
  • Swelling

Breathing Problems

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Shortness of breath (wheezing)
  • Throat tightness

Stomach Problems

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps

Circulation Problems

  • Pale skin
  • Light-headedness
  • Loss of consciousness

If you are concerned about your child having a peanut allergy, talk to your pediatrician. While it can be scary to test your baby for peanut allergies, it's best to find out in a controlled environment — rather than by accident later in life at a friend's house, birthday party or school event.

Sources:

American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, Preventing Allergies: What You Should Know About your Baby's Nutrition, 2015.

Du Toit G, Roberts G, Sayre PH, et al. Randomized trial of peanut consumption in infants at risk for peanut allergy. New England Journal of Medicine. 2015;372(9):803–813. doi:10.1056/nejmoa1414850.

Young MC. Taking the leap earlier. Current Opinion in Pediatrics. 2015;27(6):736–740. doi:10.1097/mop.0000000000000291.

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