Feeding Babies Peanuts to Prevent Peanut Allergy
The times they are a changing when it comes to babies and peanut protein. Prevailing wisdom used to be that parents and caregivers of babies at high risk for peanut allergy were told they should avoid peanut or peanut products until the baby was well into childhood.
The American Academy of Pediatrics issued guidelines in 2000 warning parents about early introduction of peanuts and the associated increased risk of life-threatening allergic reactions.
Fast-forward 17 years and the tables have totally turned. Earlier this year the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) released updated guidelines for pediatricians and allergy doctors.
The long and the short is that earlier introduction of peanuts has actually been shown to be protective against peanut allergy in high risk populations (i.e. babies with severe eczema, egg allergy or a combination of the both).
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and a panel of experts developed addendum guidelines for the prevention of peanut allergy based on an emerging body of research. The new guideline summaries are as follows:
If your baby has severe eczema, egg allergy, or both (conditions that increase the risk of peanut allergy), he or she should have peanut-containing foods introduced into the diet as early as 4 to 6 months of age.
If your baby has mild to moderate eczema, he or she may have peanut-containing foods introduced into the diet around 6 months of age to reduce the risk of developing peanut allergy.
If your baby has no eczema or any food allergy, you can freely introduce peanut-containing foods into his or her diet.
...But Peanuts and Peanut Butter Pose a Choking Risk
So peanuts earlier in life are a pretty good idea because they protect against peanut allergy.
But here's the problem: intact peanuts and peanut butter in gobs are definite choking risk for young babies.
If you are interested in introducing peanuts for babies who eat solid food, here's a few ways you can do so:
Peanut Butter Used with Precaution
Peanut butter by itself or in big gobs is certainly a choking risk for babies. But that doesn't mean peanut butter has to be totally off limits.
Once your baby has the basics of handling solid food and swallowing down, it is safe to experiment with peanut butter, provided you're using it with precaution.
We use peanut butter for our baby quadruplets in a number of ways:
- Mixed into cooked oatmeal
- Spread in a thin layer on whole grain pancakes or waffles
- As a Thai peanut sauce marinade or dip for cooked chicken
- Incorporated into muffin, quickbread, pancake or waffle batter
Here are my favorite cereal bars to make at home. I adapted these from King Arthur Flour's "Chia Energy Bars" recipe, omitting the chia, which I'm not serving to my babies just yet because of digestive issues.
Peanut Butter Energy Bars
- 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1/2 cup cooked quinoa, cooled
- 1/4 cup whole flax meal
- 1/2 cup dried fruit, nuts, etc. (diced finely for babies)
- 1 large egg white
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup peanut (or almond) butter
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease an 8" x 8" pan, or line it with parchment.
- Toss together the oats, quinoa, flaxseed meal, dried fruit, and egg white in a medium-mixing bowl until thoroughly combined.
- Warm the honey, nut butter, salt, and cinnamon in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until well blended. Don't let it boil, just let it get warm and fluid enough to blend easily with the dry ingredients, 2 to 3 minutes.Pour the honey mixture over the dry ingredients and mix until everything is coated.
- Press the mixture into the prepared pan.
- Bake the bars for 23 to 25 minutes, or until the oats on the edges start to turn golden brown.
- Remove them from the oven and let them cool completely before serving. To serve, cut into squares.
- Yield: 9 bars.
Peanut Butter Powder
Peanut butter powder is a relatively new product that is embraced by the bodybuilding and weight loss communities, but actually can be used for babies too.
The powder is what results when all of the oil is removed from the peanut. Most PB powder brands end up with 85-90% less calories than real PB and have a bit of oil and sugar added.
When incorporated into other foods, you can use PB powder to introduce peanut protein to babies while minimizing choking risk.
The nice folks at PBfit recently sent me some of their peanut butter powder to experiment with in recipes for our quadruplet babies. I modified a few of the recipes from their website
and was pleasantly surprised with the results.
Baby Friendly Peanut Powder Oatmeal Bites
These bites use peanut butter powder and are adapted from a PBfit recipe. I excluded flax seeds as they tend to be too filling for little bellies. You can choose to include or omit chocolate chips, depending on what occasion you're serving these for. Babies under 1 shouldn't have honey, so you can use maple syrup or agave instead.
- Peanut butter powder, 1/2 cup
- Water, 1/2 cup
- Honey, 2 tablespoons (*substitute maple syrup or agave if baby under 1 year of age)
- Quick cooking oats, 1 cup
- Unsweetened shredded coconut, 1/4 cup
- Line baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick cooking spray.
- In a medium sized bowl, combine peanut butter powder, water and honey and stir until combined.
- Add oats and coconut to peanut butter mixture and stir until combined. Add additional water if needed.
- Roll mixture into 12 balls and place on baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes and serve.
PBFit Creamy Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dip
This PBfit dip recipe is great for babies if you add it to cooked apples or spread on whole grain bread or crackers.
- Pumpkin puree, 1 cup (make sure it's not pumpkin pie filling)
- Peanut butter powder such as PBfit, 1/2 cup
- Agave syrup, 1/4 cup
- Milk or milk substitute, 1/2 cup
- Vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon
- Cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon
- Nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon
- Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and whisk until smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently.
- Cook until the mixture reaches a slow boil. Lower heat and cook for 5-10 minutes, taking care to stir to prevent scorching.
- Serve warm or cold, added to soft baked apples or atop whole grain bread or crackers.
Bamba Peanut Puff Snacks
Our babies don't get much in the way of packaged snack foods, but one place I do make an exception is with Bamba. Bamba is a peanut butter-flavored puffed corn snack from Israel and babies in Israel are routinely offered Bamba. It’s kind of similar to the way many American families use puffs.
Bamba blew up a few months ago when the NIH updated their guidelines regarding introduction of peanuts for babies to prevent peanut allergy. The guidelines were based on research that actually used Bamba in the study design.
The NIH-funded study called Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) (which used Bamba in its study) and published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2015 showed that eating peanut protein regularly when begun in infancy (as Bamba) and continued until 5 years of age resulted in an 81 percent reduction in the development of peanut allergy.
Our quads love Bamba and it was the first peanut food I introduced to them at 6 months.
For very young infants at high risk (see Guideline 1 above), you can soften the Bamba with 4-6 teaspoons of water, breastmilk or infant formula.
Read more about Bamba: The Perfect Peanut Food for Baby Led Weaning or check out my video on this great option for a baby friendly peanut food.