Not very long ago pregnant moms were forbidden from eating peanuts and other foods that had a history of causing allergies. This was because there was a popular misconception that eating peanuts or other allergic foods could cause an allergy for the baby. This advice continued even after the baby had grown enough to start off on solid foods, and the ban was in force until the baby crossed the age of three.
The good news is that the chances for your baby contracting a peanut allergy are as low as 2%. In other words, the remaining 98% of the babies will never develop peanut allergy in their lifetime. According to Dr. Jay Lieberman, allergist at the Le Bonheur Children’s hospital we have been wrongly advising parents that they should not feed their babies peanut until they are a year old. Hence, it is natural for the parents to fear for their babies and it is no wonder that they hesitate to feed their babies peanuts. Dr. Lieberman further states that even for babies with egg allergy or severe eczema, introducing peanuts early in life will only reduce the chances for developing peanut allergy.
Is it safe to eat peanuts during pregnancy?
There is no supporting research evidence that indicates abstinence from high-allergy foods helps prevent food allergies for your baby in any way. When a mother consumes peanuts, the fetus is exposed to peanuts. If the mother has no history of allergy, she can safely include such allergy causing foods like peanuts in a diet that should otherwise be well-balanced. Latest research in the field indicates that when a minimum of three servings per week of fish rich in omega-3 is consumed, it reduces the chances of contracting eczema.
How safe are peanuts when it comes to breastfeeding?
The same rule applies to breastfeeding mothers, who should focus on being on a well-balanced diet (including various types of foods) while nursing their babies. Even if mothers have been taking prenatal supplements during pregnancy and continue to do so after giving birth, they should still try to include several natural foods in their diet so that there are less chances of developing any sort of food allergy. Of course, the same is the case for moms who are using breast pumps to pump and store breast milk for later use. However, there is no evidence of any risk of allergy while using formula feeds based on cow’s milk.
Expose you baby to solid foods as early as possible
The day you notice that your baby is ready to ingest solid foods you should not hesitate feeding her or him high-allergy foods like eggs and peanuts as this helps your baby easily overcome the risk of being affected by such high-allergy foods. However, if there is any family history of allergy for any particular food, it makes sense to avoid that food at this stage. Your baby can be introduced to allergens as early as 6 months of age, though parents have their own trepidations. When in doubt, consult your pediatrician who will advise you by recommending the correct food, which is safe for your baby.
Another risk with peanuts (apart from allergy) is that it can cause your baby to choke. In such cases it is better to try out safer versions of peanut like peanut butter first and introduce peanuts when the baby is more comfortable chewing and swallowing. A couple of teaspoons of peanut butter or finely powdered roasted peanuts should be quite safe. These can even be added to the pumped breast milk while feeding your baby to make ingestion easier.