It seems that every few years we get new and conflicting information about what to feed our kids and all of this advice is backed by data available at the time. In the area of food allergies, there has been a whirlwind of information and none consistent. Some data support the idea that mothers eating peanut butter when pregnant and breastfeeding increase their child’s risk of allergy and now new data suggests that children fed a diet with peanut butter in it from a young age, are LESS likely to be allergic. This most recent study was done comparing children in England who uniformly did not have any peanut exposure until well after a year of age to demographically similar children in Israel 69% of whom were given peanut butter regularly before a year of age. As the children grew older, there was a 10-fold difference in peanut allergy rates, with the children who had frequent and early consumption of peanut butter being 10 times less likely to be allergic than those whose parents restricted peanut butter. Interesting.
These findings make sense to me. Generally, children born into households with pets are not allergic to them. Kids raised on farms where they are constantly bombarded with pollens and dirt and animals almost never have any allergies or asthma. It makes sense that a frequent ‘dose’ of something will build tolerance….after all, that is how allergy shots work.
I am not sure I am going to encourage everyone to go hog wild and start feeding their kids peanut butter at six months of age, but I have always told parents peanut butter is fine to give starting around a year of age but to be sure to give it often so the protein never seems ‘foreign’ to the body.
Eat lots of different foods, get dirty, and have benadryl around just in case and each day will be your best!
Molly O’Shea, MD Birmingham Pediatrics + Wellness Center