Many new or expecting moms have historically been told not to introduce peanuts into their child’s diet until a year after their birth. However, new guidelines were issued this week by the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases encouraging parents to feed their babies peanut butter sooner than that.
The new recommendations believe that exposing babies to peanuts early on will make their bodies less likely to develop a peanut allergy, which is why they suggest all infants, even those considered high risk for peanut allergies, to be exposed at younger ages.
The guidelines divided babies into three categories: babies with no known allergies, babies with mild to moderate eczema, and babies with severe eczema or as having an egg allergy.
For infants with no known allergies, they are considered to be at low risk, which means they can have food that contains peanuts whenever it’s “age appropriate and in accordance with family preferences and cultural practices.” For babies with mild to moderate eczema, they can be fed food that contains peanuts around six months. Lastly, for babies with severe eczema or an already existing allergy to eggs, they should be exposed to peanuts around four to six months, along with the assistance of a doctor.
So, how did the new guidelines come about? A 2015 study showed that peanut allergies have increased due to parents waiting to expose their babies to peanuts–in 1999, less than half of 1% of children in America were allergic to peanuts. However, by 2010, that number doubled. It followed the allergy rates in babies who were exposed to peanuts early on versus ones that were not.
As as result, the findings suggest that exposing children to peanuts earlier on may allow their bodies to accept peanut proteins, rather than developing an allergy. Let’s also not forget about Bamba–and how there was actually an Israeli study where it was proven that Bamba actually helps reduce allergies in kids.
Co-author of the guidelines, Dr. Matthew Greenhawt, who is also the Chairman of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s Food Allergy Committee, told The New York Times that it’s possible to prevent the allergy:
“You have the potential to stop something in its tracks before it develops. [There] is a window of time in which the body is more likely to tolerate a food than react to it and if you can educate the body during that window, you’re at much lower likelihood of developing an allergy to that food.”
It’s important to keep in mind that the guidelines caution against feeding a baby actual peanuts, as they are a choking risk–so keeping it to peanut butter or puree is preferable. It’s also crucial to watch for any signs of a developing allergy as you expose your children to peanuts. You should always consult with your pediatrician when making significant changes to your child’s diet–or if you’re unsure about something.
Mild symptoms of a peanut allergy include a rash or just a few hives on the face or around the mouth, while severe symptoms are lip, face, or tongue swelling, vomiting, body hives, trouble breathing, wheezing, repetitive coughing, change in skin color to pale or blue, or a sudden tiredness or limpness in your child.