Offering smooth peanut butter to babies could give 'life long' protection against peanut allergy - mum of tweens shares her weaning stories and what she would've done differently

Precautions are still needed when offering peanut-based foods

Baby in high chair with food around his mouth
(Image credit: Lucy Wigley)

Offering smooth peanut butter to babies as young as four months gives them a good chance at not developing a peanut allergy, according to updated research. One mum shares her weaning journey, and what she would've done differently.

Baby weaning is both an exciting and worry-inducing stage of development. Watching your baby try new tastes and textures is exciting, but also nerve-wrecking as you look out for any signs of allergies and reactions. 

Building on earlier research, experts are reminding parents to offer smooth peanut butter to babies from the age of four to six months, and throughout early childhood, as it may offer lifelong protection against peanut allergy. This is in contrast to current NHS guidelines, stating peanut butter shouldn't be given to babies until they're six months or older. When my children were weaning, the advice was not to offer it until they were over the age of one.

Results of the current study found teenagers fed peanut butter from four to six months until the age of five were 71% less likely to develop an allergy than if not given it. The study comes in response to high numbers of children diagnosed with peanut allergies, and schools having to ban nut products.

Researchers therefore suggest parents offer peanut butter during weaning, continuing this practice until their child turns five. This should always be in the form of smooth peanut butter, as the consumption of chopped or whole nuts isn't recommended for this age group. This is in contrast to previous advice that at one point suggested peanuts should be avoided entirely until the age of three.

National Health Service (NHS) guidelines say parents can give smooth peanut butter to children from six months old, and we suggest following this advice as the study in question suggests offering it to babies from four to six months.

However, the promising results from the long study remain interesting. Of the 640 children at high-risk of peanut allergy taking part in the clinical trial, half were given peanut-based food when weaning began, with the other half having it withheld from their diet. Those given peanuts showed a dramatic reduction in allergies by the age of five, with lasting protection into their teens whether they continued eating peanuts or not. 

I weaned both of my children differently, and gave my youngest child smooth peanut butter and other products I wasn't aware babies weren't supposed to have at the time - such as tahini. My first child got the 'Annabel Karmel' weaning treatment. This included everything being pureed, and her guidelines and meal plans followed to the absolute letter. 

I wavered on my choice of weaning when other mums I knew started sharing baby-led weaning books and stories, and when I heard the words 'prevents fussy eating' thrown around. I convinced myself I'd made yet another parenting 'mistake,' and vowed to make sure I tried the all-important baby-led method the next time.

I have to say, it was more luck than judgment in the end, that baby number two ended up actually being weaned the baby-led way. Looking back, I can't believe I managed to feed him at all - having the children 14 months apart and a huge dose of postnatal depression means I can't believe I managed to keep going to feed anyone. 

"Having the children 14 months apart and a huge dose of postnatal depression means I can't believe I managed to keep going to feed anyone."

Baby number two would have chunks of fruit and vegetables given to him at meal times, along with whatever we were having that had salt-appropriate levels. Unlike his older brother, his appetite was voracious - he simply loved to eat. While he was happy in his high chair munching away, he'd often have post-meal snacks that included peanut butter, and houmous. I admit - I was unaware he shouldn't be having those things.

However, he survived. Like me, he also loved cheese. Nothing brought him greater pleasure than chomping on a stick of cheese (admittedly, this remains one of my own greatest pleasures too.) He'd occasionally get a rash around his mouth after eating these chunks of deliciousness, and I suspected a slight allergy, but he soon grew out of this and cheese remains a staple of his diet.

Here's the important part - both children, weaned with different styles - went on to be the fussiest toddlers and young children that ever existed. As tweens, the child who followed Annabel Karmel will now eat anything, his favourite thing being asking to try new and varied cuisines. The baby-led voracious eater remains finnicky and difficult to please.

What would I do differently..?

Not give as many thoughts to what other people were doing, and what everyone else would perceive as the right way to introduce food to my kids. The actual weaning, I'd do exactly the same - I can't see it would've made any difference to their preferences which are a part of their personality. I've no doubt with my continued food education they'll end up eating a fully balanced, well-rounded diet when they're a little older - they survived peanuts, tahini and other things most parents were holding off at the time until age one or beyond. They also made it through with a mum who made a few normal judgment errors, and we're all absolutely fine.

Please ask your GP or health visitor for advice about weaning and which foods to give your baby if you are unsure.

For more on babies, we look at why they put everything in their mouth, and why they need to lay flat in a pram. Ever wondered why 'dada' is a baby's first word? There's some interesting reasons behind this.

Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.