Are you wondering if it is safe to introduce peanuts to your baby or toddler? In the past, I have recommended that parents wait until a year of age to introduce peanuts to their baby. This is a common recommendation, and different health regions and countries seem to vary somewhere between six months to three years of age for introducing peanuts. But my baby is 9 months old now, and I recently decided to look into this issue a more.
Peanut allergy is the most common allergy among children, with 1.68% of Canadians affected But Canada, there are no current provincial or federal recommended age to introduce peanuts to infants. Some countries (like Britain and Australia) suggest waiting until age three. I think this would be very difficult to do in today’s food system, and it will not prevent the allergy. But it is true that a three year old is more likely to be able to tell you that they are having an allergic reaction, than an 8 month old.
In the United States, the American Academy of Pediatrics used to recommend that babies at risk of developing allergy avoid eggs until two years of age and avoid peanuts, tree nuts, and fish until three years. These guidelines were based on a few limited studies. However, as of 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics reversed its stance on delaying the introduction of dairy, eggs and nuts, as there is “no current convincing evidence that delaying their introduction has significant protective effect on the development of atopic disease” (Greer, F et al. Pediatrics. 2008 Jan;121(1):183-91).
Researchers are now thinking avoiding allergic foods to prevent allergy may actually be counterproductive! Some countries where children are introduced to peanut products much earlier, have a much lower rate of peanut allergy. Perhaps earlier introduction of the potential allergic protein can actually create tolerance, and prevent an allergy! The Learning Early About Peanuts (LEAP) study is a randomized control trial currently underway to explore this. Results will be ready in 2013, after following high-risk babies for five years. Researchers will compare allergy rates in the early peanut exposure group to the delayed peanut exposure group.
Until then, I would stick with AAP recommendations. A few years ago I waited until my son was a year to introduce peanuts, but I first fed my daughter peanut butter at age 8 months. While I wouldn’t introduce peanuts as your baby’s first food (more on first food here!), peanut butter can be introduced within the first year for most babies. If you have a high-risk baby (a sibling or parent has food allergies), you may feel more comfortable waiting to introduce peanuts, although the age is up to you. And you may want to do a few trials of rubbing peanut butter on your baby’s cheek before introducing it as a food, to watch for rash. Peanuts are such an easy, inexpensive, nutritious & delicious food, so I wish you luck!