New rules for peanut butter

Q When can we give our baby peanut butter?

 

A This is a great question. If you had asked this question a few months ago, it would have resulted in a different answer. 

In 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that the introduction of peanut butter, or other allergenic foods, should be delayed until a child is at least 3 years old. 

In 2008, however, it was found that the rate of peanut allergies didn’t decrease in the subsequent years, despite the widely supported recommendation. 

Then, earlier this year, a new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found even more reason to believe that delaying peanut butter exposure might be unnecessary.

More than 600 infants with a history of eczema or egg allergies were divided into two groups. One group was given a cereal made with peanut butter as early as 6 months of age. The other group was told to not eat any peanut products until they were 5 years old. 

Researchers then measured the rate of peanut allergy in the two groups. They found that the one with early introduction had only a 3 percent rate. The group that was told to avoid peanuts had a rate of 17 percent. 

Based on these findings, many pediatricians are now counseling that it’s OK to introduce peanut butter as early as 6 months of age. As with any new food introduction, it’s recommended to introduce only one new food every three to five days. 

It’s not clear if the peanut butter study can be extrapolated to other common allergy-inducing foods, such as egg products. Before you introduce these foods, it’s best to discuss your concerns with your pediatrician. 

You should also discuss introducing peanut butter with your pediatrician if there’s a strong family history of food allergies, especially peanut butter.




Kimara Gustafson works as a pediatrician at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. Write her at kgustafson@mnparent.com.