Can babies have peanut butter?
When it comes to introducing solid foods to your baby you may have many questions and concerns. More so when it comes to a food that is a common allergen. One of the most frequently asked questions I get asked is when can babies have peanut butter, and how I can give peanut butter to my baby.
I remember my apprehension about giving my daughters peanut butter when they were babies, what if they had a reaction what did I do? Peanut butter is a major food allergen, but avoiding it altogether may not be the best thing to do.
In this blog post, I’ll discuss why it is important to introduce peanut butter to your baby, how to do it correctly, and what to do if a reaction occurs.
Peanut Allergy in babies
Peanut butter is a common food allergen, and it is natural to be concerned about introducing peanut butter to your baby. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends that babies who are at high risk for developing peanut allergy are introduced to peanut-containing foods as early as 4 to 6 months of age. Babies with an increased risk may be those with a family history or current diagnosed food allergy or a family history of eczema. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), early introduction of peanuts to high-risk infants may help reduce the risk of peanut allergy altogether.
A recent study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in 2023 found that there is a clear window to expose infants to peanuts – in smooth or baby friendly forms. This could reduce the risk of developing a peanut allergy by up to 77%. Waiting until your baby is 12 months old will only give a 33% reduction.
How common is peanut allergy in babies?
Evidence suggests that peanut allergy affects around 2% of children in the UK (1 in 50) with the numbers increasing. However, around 1 in 10 children outgrow their peanut allergy. It is important to remember that peanuts are a legume and they are not the same as tree nuts which include cashews, almonds, brazil and hazelnuts. These will need to be introduced separately.
Best peanut butter for babies
When introducing peanut butter to your baby, it is important to do it carefully and gradually. Peanut butter can be very thick and could pose a choking risk to your baby if a portion is given that is too large for them to swallow.
Opt for a smooth butter that doesn’t contain any added salt or sugar. Find one that is made from nuts with nothing added.
Start with a small amount, about 1/4 teaspoon, and you can either; mix it with a teaspoon of breast milk or formula milk or mix it into your baby’s porridge. Give this mixture to your baby and watch closely for any signs of an allergic reaction.
If there is no reaction then you can give peanut butter again another day throughout the week.
Once your baby can tolerate 1tsp of peanut butter throughout the day then you can continue to give freely in their diet.
What to Do If baby has a reaction to peanut butter
An allergic reaction to peanuts will usually occur within minutes up to one hour after eating peanuts.
Allergic reactions to peanuts can be mild, moderate or severe. You may be aware of the term anaphylaxis which is the most severe reaction to peanuts and can be life threatening.
Itchy mouth, tongue and throat
- Itchy mouth, tongue and throat
- Swelling of lips, around the eyes or face
- Red raised itchy rash (often called nettle rash, hives or urticaria)
- Vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhoea
- Runny nose and sneezing
- Swelling of the tongue and/or throat
- Difficulty in swallowing or speaking
- Change in voice or cry (hoarse voice)
- Wheeze (whistling noise) or persistent cough
- Difficult or noisy breathing
- Dizziness, collapse, loss of consciousness (due to a drop in blood pressure)
- Pale, floppy, sudden sleepiness in babies.
If your baby reacts to peanut butter, stop giving it immediately and seek medical attention via speaking with your GP or a dietitian. If the reaction is severe go to A&E immediately. For a mild reaction speak with your GP or Dietitian for advice on what to do next. They may recommend allergy testing or other diagnostic tests to determine the cause of the reaction.
The EAT Study
The Enquiring About Tolerance (EAT) study was a large-scale clinical trial that investigated the early introduction of peanut and other allergenic foods to infants.
The study found that the number of infants who developed peanut allergy was significantly lower in those who were introduced to peanuts early, compared to those who avoided peanuts until later in life.
The results of the EAT study suggest that early introduction of peanuts and other allergenic foods may help reduce the risk of food allergy in children.
The LEAP Study
The Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study was another landmark clinical trial that investigated the effects of early peanut introduction on the risk of peanut allergy. The study found that of the children who avoided peanuts, 17% developed peanut allergy by the age of 5 years. Remarkably, only 3% of the children who were randomised to eat the peanut snack developed an allergy by age 5.
This may mean that introducing peanut butter to babies early may be beneficial in reducing the risk of peanut allergy. Early introduction would be classified as any time from when weaning is ready which is between 17-26 weeks.
Top tips on giving peanut butter to babies for the first time
- Start with smooth peanut butter: Begin by choosing a smooth and creamy peanut butter that does not contain any added sugar, salt or palm oil.
- Thin it out: Mix a small amount of peanut butter with breast milk, formula, or a suitable alternative milk to thin it out. This will help make it easier for your baby to swallow and reduce the risk of choking.
- Baby led weaning peanut butter; Spread it on fruits or vegetables: Spread a thin layer of peanut butter on slices of soft fruits, such as bananas or apples
- Mix peanut butter into cooked and mashed vegetables like sweet potatoes or carrots. This will introduce the flavour of peanut butter and add variety to your baby’s diet.
- Mix it with baby cereal: Stir a small amount of peanut butter into your baby’s usual baby cereal to introduce the taste and texture. Start with a very small quantity and gradually increase it as your baby becomes more comfortable.
- Peanut butter dip: Prepare a dip using peanut butter and a suitable liquid like yoghurt or homemade applesauce. Offer soft finger foods such as pieces of bread, crackers, or slices of cooked sweet potatoes for your baby to dip and explore.
- Peanut butter pancakes: Make simple and nutritious pancakes by adding a teaspoon or two of peanut butter to your baby’s favourite pancake batter.
- Try our banana peanut butter recipe perfect for babies when weaning.
Nutritional benefits of peanut butter for babies
Peanut butter is a popular food but it can often get a bad reputation for being high in fat and calories. However, for babies, peanut butter can be a highly nutritious addition to their diet. Not only does it contain healthy fats, but it is also rich in protein and other essential nutrients like Vitamin E, magnesium, and zinc.
Just be sure to choose natural peanut butter without added sugar, salt or containing palm oil.
Remember to keep the portions to a maximum of 1-2tsp per day.
In conclusion, while peanut butter is a common allergen, introducing it to babies early may actually help reduce the risk of peanut allergy. When introducing peanut butter to babies, it is important to do it gradually and watch closely for any signs of an allergic reaction. If a reaction occurs, stop giving peanut butter and seek medical attention.
If you’re worried about your babies diet or introducing any new foods then get in touch. You can contact me here;
Hannah is an Expert Registered Dietitian specialising in Vegan Family Nutrition and Cows Milk Protein Allergy.
She is a respected figure in the field of nutrition and a captivating speaker and sought after media spokesperson being featured in esteemed publications including the Sunday Times, Independent and Huffington Post.
- Registered Dietitian
- First Class Degree in Nutrition
- Over 15 years experience working in the field of nutrition
- Respected Media Spokesperson both in the UK & USA; quoted online, TV and in local and international news
- Writer & Researcher, supporting the BDA and PEN Nutrition