When Can My Baby Eat Peanut Butter?

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Everyone knows someone who’s allergic to peanut butter, so it’s no wonder you may be apprehensive about feeding it to your baby for the first time. As it happens, research shows that the earlier you introduce the plant-based spread to an infant, the less likely they are to exhibit allergy symptoms.

As soon as your baby is ready for solids around 4 to 6 months of age, they can try small amounts of watered-down peanut butter, says Dr. Angela Tsuang, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics in the division of allergy and immunology at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine. Here’s what else you should know before introducing the food.

Is Peanut Butter Safe for My Baby?

Many caregivers are nervous to introduce peanuts, as they are worried about allergic reactions, but it actually pays to start kids early on the nut butter. “Introducing peanut in a baby’s diet within the first year of life, ideally around 6 months, may decrease the risk of developing peanut allergies,” says Dr. Tsuang.

By about 6 months of age, a child who can sit up alone or with some support, control their neck and head, open their mouth when they are offered food, swallow food, bring things to their mouth, and try to grasp small objects is likely ready to start solids, according to Mark R. Corkins, MD, division chief of pediatric gastroenterology at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Tennessee.

At this point, peanut butter can be a safe food to try, given you begin with small amounts in a consistency that minimizes the risk of choking—more on that to come.

Every baby is different. Be sure to consult with a pediatrician if you have any questions about giving your infant peanut butter.

Benefits of Giving Baby Peanut Butter

There are many health, nutrition, and practical benefits of giving your baby peanut butter.

It Can Reduce the Risk of a Peanut Allergy

Introducing peanut butter within the first 11 months of life can reduce the risk of exhibiting allergic symptoms among infants with a high risk of peanut allergy before the age of 5. This is according to a landmark study called LEAP (Learning Early About Peanut allergy) which proved early exposure was more beneficial than avoidance.

It’s a Good Source of Plant-Based Protein

Peanut butter serves up high-quality plant protein, which can help infants meet their protein needs before they develop the skills to chew meat, Dr. Corkins says.

It’s a Good Source of Healthy Fats 

Peanut butter is as nutritious as it is delicious. In addition to protein, it also contains monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids that are important for brain growth and development during the first year of life, Dr. Corkins explains.

You Can’t Beat the Convenience 

Until your baby becomes an expert at eating and is ready to feast on family meals, preparing baby-friendly meals can be a hassle. Enter peanut butter, the shelf-stable spread that ticks two nutritional boxes—fat and protein—and can be smeared on toast, stirred into apple sauce, or used to coat noodles. There’s no question that it’s advantageous to have a child who can tolerate peanut butter and enjoys it early on.

Safety Precautions

Although experts recommend introducing babies to peanut butter at an early age for good reason, there are some safety precautions parents should keep in mind when bringing this nut-butter to the table.

Readiness for Solids 

Peanut butter can be fed to a baby as long as they are ready to eat solids, which typically occurs around 4 to 6 months. To make sure they are developmentally ready to chow down, make sure they can tolerate one to two solid foods—think infant cereal or a produce puree—before introducing peanut butter, Dr. Tsuang says.

Choking Hazard

Chunky peanut butter can be a choking hazard, as can smooth peanut butter fed straight-up due to its stickiness, Dr. Tsuang warns. As such, peanut butter should be thinned out with either water, formula, or breast milk before serving.

Food Allergies

Previous allergic reactions or allergy testing can clue you into a peanut allergy. But because of the correlation between eczema, egg allergies, and peanut allergies, infants with the aforementioned conditions may be at higher risk of peanut allergy, according to Dr. Tsuang.

“It is important in these infants to introduce peanut early to try to prevent peanut allergy,” she says. If the prospect of inducing an allergic reaction scares you, keep in mind that allergic reactions tend to be less severe—i.e., present as skin or gastrointestinal symptoms as opposed to anaphylaxis—among infants, according to Dr. Tsuang.

Talk to your pediatrician ASAP about further screening to avoid delaying your child’s exposure.

When and How to Introduce Peanut Butter

Experts agree that once your child is ready to eat solids, earlier is better to introduce peanut butter. When introducing peanut for the first time, do it at home where you know the nearest medical facility and serve it during business hours—so during breakfast or lunch. This way, you can keep an eye on your baby after feeding time, and rest assured that medical help will be readily available should you encounter an emergency, Dr. Tsuang says.

How to Serve It

Start with smooth peanut butter, as chunky varieties can pose choking hazards. Health-conscious parents might opt for natural peanut butter which contains no added oils or sweeteners. “We don’t want to further cultivate the natural preference for sweets, and we prefer to introduce one ingredient at a time so it’s easier to identify the cause in the case of a reaction,” Dr. Corkins says.  

As the stickiness of peanut butter can be cause for concern, you should mix it with liquid like water, formula, or breastmilk, or stir it into a fruit or vegetable puree that your baby has tried and tolerated before, Dr. Tsuang says. Try one to two teaspoons of smooth peanut butter with 2 to 3 teaspoons of a hot liquid to thin out the nut butter.

Or, stick with peanut flour stirred into puree or peanut puffs, which you can soften by soaking in water.

Once food prep is behind you, offer your infant less than a baby spoon full of the peanut butter, then wait 10 minutes and observe for reactions such as a new rash, or hives around the mouth or face. More severe symptoms to look out for are swelling of the lips and face, vomiting, widespread hives, repetitive coughing or difficulty breathing, change in skin color to pale or blue, or sudden lethargy or limpness.

Assuming there’s been no allergic reaction after 10 minutes, slowly continue serving the remainder of the peanut-containing food. 

What Amount of Peanut Butter Should I Give My Baby?

An appropriate serving size to start with is about 2 teaspoons of peanut butter that is thinned out with water. Once peanut is successfully introduced into the diet, serving more is perfectly fine, Dr. Tsuang says. In fact, it’s best to serve it at least a few times a week moving forward.

A Word From Verywell

Babies can and should be introduced to peanut butter around 4 to 6 months of age or after they’ve been introduced to several other non-allergenic foods. Caregivers should choose smooth peanut butter rather than chunky and thin it out with milk or water to reduce the stickiness and avoid choking hazards. If your child has any conditions associated with a higher risk of peanut allergy, make sure you consult your baby’s pediatrician before serving them peanut butter.

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7 Sources
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