The current recommendations are to introduce every type of food with the exception of honey, salt and sugar at 6 months. This is especially important for foods that can lead to severe and even deadly allergic reactions like peanuts and tree nuts. Studies have shown that introducing these foods at 6 months reduces the risk of an allergy developing by up to 80 percent. At the same time, Health Canada advises against giving your child actual nuts or nut butter alone as they are a choking hazard. So how do you introduce them safely? We have put together some simple guidelines.
At your child's 6-month checkup, we recommend asking your pediatrician his/her guidelines to safely introduce new foods. Many doctors use guidelines similar to the following to introduce solids:
Ask your doctor
- Find out what dose of Benadryl (antihistamine) your child should receive in case of a reaction.
- If your child has already had an allergic reaction to one food, ask if there are any other foods in the same family that should be avoided.
- Make sure that you are within driving distance of a medical facility.
- Keep some Benadryl on hand in case of a reaction.
- Introduce only a single new food every 3 days.
- The new food should not be given right before bed. You should remain with your child for a minimum of 20 minutes after, monitoring any reactions.
What to look for
- Check that there are no rashes, hives or swelling (don't forget the stomach). If there are any reactions, stop the food until you have seen your pediatrician.
- If your child tries to pull away after one bite or has an unusual reaction different from when you introduced other foods, stop feeding the child. Some allergic reactions begin with an uncomfortable itching or numbing feeling in the mouth. Wait to see if any further reactions develop. If there are no reactions (perhaps your child just didn't like the food), you can try again the next day.
- If there is any swelling, rashes and/or hives around the neck, mouth or face area, give your child a dose of Benadryl while calling 911. Make sure to notify the hospital that you have given your child a dose of Benadryl.
*Please note: If you admistered an Epipen injection, you must still get to the hospital ASAP. The Epipen gives you about 15-20 minutes before the reaction comes back full force. Antihistamines and steroids are what actually stop the reaction, and are what the hospital will administer.
We found that the simplest way to introduce nuts to your child's diet at 6 months is with the nut butter oil. Nut butter oil is an almost clear liquid that collects at the top of the jar as shown in the following image:
It is only present in 100% pure nut butter (we recommend organic). This means no added sugar, palm oil, maltodextrin, soybean salt, hydrogenated vegetable oil or anything else that is not an actual nut. The ingredients should be simple:
At 6 months, we recommend mixing a bit of this liquid into either cereal, yogurt or milk. As the baby gets older, you can mix it with more of the hard layer.
What is the difference between Tree Nuts and Peanuts
Most nuts are grown on trees (e.g. almonds, cashews, hazelnuts) and are consequently called "Tree Nuts" and have a similar composition to each other. Studies have shown that if you already have an allergy to one tree nut, that you are at a higher risk to have an allergy to other tree nuts. For this reason, many doctors recommend avoiding other tree nuts if you already have a tree nut allergy.
Peanuts, on the other hand, grow underground and are different in composition to tree nuts. They fall under the legume family and are actually more similar in composition to beans, lentils and soy. Contrary to tree nuts, studies have not shown any relation between having an allergy to peanuts and having a higher chance of an allergy to other members of the legume family.
Because of the big difference in composition, Tree Nuts and Peanuts must be considered as two completely different foods. This means that it's extremely important to introduce nuts from both families at 6 months.
Quantity and Frequency
Giving your child nut butters a single time under one year is not enough to prevent allergies from developing. Studies have shown that quantity and frequency are extremely important. We recommend using a minute amount the first three feeds and, if there are no reactions, to increase the quantity for subsequent feeds. Once you have safely introduced a couple of different nut butters, we recommend alternating tree nut butters with peanut butter (e.g. one day almond butter, one day peanut butter, one day cashew butter, one day peanut butter, etc.).
We love the "Nuts to You" brand. They have a lot of different organic products including Pumpkin Seed Butter (high in iron) and Sesame Tahini (another food that should be introduced early on).