Introducing nuts to babies is typically recommended after the age of 12 months but recommendations are changing!
Introducing Nuts to your Baby. When is it safe to introduce nuts to your Baby?
When can Baby Eat Nuts?
One of the most confusing issues about introducing solids to your baby is when to introduce foods that are considered allergens. There seems to be little consensus within the medical community concerning the appropriate age of introduction for a variety of foods, never mind the allergenic foods. Introducing nuts to your baby is probably one of the most scary foods and worrisome issues as the recommendations vary greatly.
What is the Age that My Baby Can Eat Nuts?
Pediatricians will tell you that you should introduce nuts (tree nuts) to your baby between the age of 12 months and 36 months. Oh yes, this is a big and confusing age gap. The reasons for this age gap are as varied as pediatricians that make the recommendations. And to make matters more confusing, there have been a few studies released since 2008 that indicate that waiting to introduce nuts (or any of the common food allergens) to babies is not necessary at all! In a 2008 update and affirmation of an AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) Policy Statement, the AAP notes the following:
"Although solid foods should not be introduced before 4 to 6 months of age, there is no current convincing evidence that delaying their introduction beyond this period has a significant protective effect on the development of atopic disease regardless of whether infants are fed cow milk protein formula or human milk. This includes delaying the introduction of foods that are considered to be highly allergic, such as fish, eggs, and foods containing peanut protein." Click to view report
So what's a parent to do? First, you must thoroughly discuss introducing allergenic food with your baby's pediatrician. There may be reasons why you should or should not wait to introduce certain foods.
Nuts for the Non-Allergic Baby: There are some pediatricians that feel that it is safe to introduce nuts to the non-allergic baby before 12 months but after 12 months of age is still the most common recommendation. The non-allergic baby is defined as a baby who has no family history of nut or other food allergies and/or sensitivities.
Nuts for the Allergic Baby: Pediatricians recommend introducing nuts at a later age, between 24 and 36 months of age, for the allergic baby. The allergic baby is one who has a family history of allergies and who may have already shown a food allergy or food sensitivity. For this baby, waiting to introduce nuts may help stave off a nut allergy. We have found a few pediatricians who suggest introducing nuts to the allergic baby after 7 years of age; some even say to never ever introduce nuts.
It is very important that you discuss introducing possible allergens to your baby with your baby's pediatrician. Generalities about introducing foods may not apply to your baby.
There are many types of nuts that may pose an allergy risk. Tree nuts are the nuts that are most often referred to. Tree nuts include, but are not limited to the following:
Peanuts - not a tree nut
It may come as a surprise to you to learn that peanuts are NOT nuts at all. Peanuts are actually legumes. Peanuts grow in the ground while "nuts" grow on trees; hence the term "tree nut".
Peanuts are considered the most dangerous of all "nuts" and peanut allergies are very common. As the Mayo Clinic notes:
"Peanut allergy is common and often appears in the first years of life. While many children outgrow allergies to other foods such as milk or eggs, most kids don't outgrow peanut allergy as they get older.
An allergic reaction to peanuts can range from a minor irritation to a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. Even people who have only had a mild reaction in the past are at risk of a more serious future reaction."
As with tree nuts, the recommendations for introducing peanuts to babies and children vary greatly. There are some sources that caution parents not to introduce peanuts to their kids until the children are at least 7 years old; this recommendation is regardless of history of food allergies.
You should consult your pediatrician about introducing any kind of food that may be an allergy risk.
There are many parents who introduce nuts at an early age and their babies have no issues. In many cultures around the world, nuts are an important part of the diet and babies are fed them early on. However, there are also many parents who introduce nuts both early and later, only to find their baby develops an allergy.
Resources for Learning More About Tree Nuts and Peanuts
- Peanut Allergies - Mayo Clinic
- Peanut & Nut Allergies - Kidshealth.org
- Peanut Allergy Information
- Tree Nut Allergies - Calgary Allergy Network
- Tree Nut Allergy - AllergicChild.com