The Peanut Predicament: An Expert Guide to Introducing Peanuts Safely and Deliciously
One of the biggest worries when it comes to introducing solids is allergic reaction – especially with peanuts. But we are seeing increasing evidence that early introduction can reduce allergy cases. Although NHS still suggests introduction at around 6 months, new research shows 4-6 months may be a golden window to do so.
In this post, we ask our dietitians Jo to tell us more about the recent studies.
Mulu: “Hi Jo, many parents worry about allergies, especially nuts and peanuts allergies as they can be quite severe. Is peanut allergy common in babies?”
Jo: “Peanut allergy affects 1 in 50 children in the UK (around 2% of the UK child population) – interestingly it’s seen a 3-fold increase in recent decades. It is more common in children with severe eczema and egg allergy. Most peanut allergies have already developed by the age of 1 year.”
Mulu: “Wow. So I’ve heard people say it’s now recommended to introduce peanuts even earlier than 6 months because of a new study? Can you tell us more about this?”
Jo: “Of course. The latest research published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology was conducted by the University of Southampton, King’s College London & the National Institute for Health & Care Research.
They found that giving peanut butter to young babies (between 4-6 months of age) could cut allergy cases by 77% (equivalent of preventing 10,000 out of roughly 13,000 cases of peanut allergy each year). The theory is that giving peanuts whilst the immune system is developing can reduce allergic reactions. Delaying introduction until 1 year of age was shown to reduce cases by 33%.”
They advise introducing peanut to babies between 4 and 6 months, for babies with eczema (particularly severe eczema) introduce at 4 months and baby should be developmentally ready. They advise starting with vegetable puree and once baby is comfortable to give around 3 heaped teaspoons of peanut butter a week (and to maintain this). As its quite dry and claggy to mix with some breastmilk (or formula milk).
It is still really important to note that this should be in the form of a smooth no added salt or sugar peanut butter (100% peanuts) or finely ground peanuts and not whole nuts, coarsely chopped peanuts or crunchy nut butter as these are a choking risks to children under the age of 5 years.”
Mulu: “Interesting – so how is that different to what you have been advising people to do?”
Jo: “We had been advising parents with children at high risk of allergy (severe eczema or existing allergy) to introduce egg and peanut from 4 months of age (BSACI guidelines). However, this new research indicates this would be helpful to the entire population as allergies occur in many babies without risk factors. Targeting just babies with severe eczema reduces peanut allergy in the population by less than 5%. We will need to wait to see if the government change the current weaning advice in view of these findings.”
At V&Me we advise starting introduction of allergens from 6 months of age (allergens start in week 2 of our Ultimate Weaning Kit) which is current NHS and DoH guidance.
We suggest speaking to your healthcare provider and looking at the BSACI guidelines if your child is at higher risk of allergy.