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When to start feeding your baby peanut butter, milk, and other foods

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It’s time to begin feeding your baby some of the same nutritious foods the rest of the family enjoys at mealtimes, such as mashed or pureed vegetables, fruits and cereals. But be aware that some foods can cause problems if they’re not introduced at appropriate times. Here’s some advice about giving your baby peanut butter, eggs, fish and cow’s milk.

 

Peanuts and other allergenic foods

To help prevent food allergies, parents were once told to delay feeding infants eggs, fish and peanut butter. But today researchers say postponing the introduction of highly allergenic foods beyond 4 to 6 months of age hasn’t been shown to prevent eczema, asthma, allergic rhinitis or food allergy.

In fact, recent evidence suggests that introduction of peanut butter or peanut containing foods as early as 4 months may help prevent the development of peanut allergy. This is especially true for babies at increased risk of peanut allergies, such as those with eczema, an egg allergy or a family history of food allergies.

If your baby’s started eating solid foods already and hasn’t shown signs of any food allergies, you can introduce a bit of peanut butter thinned with breast milk, formula or pureed food. (Avoid giving thick peanut butter from the jar or whole nuts.) If your baby tolerates it, you can gradually increase the amount given. When introducing other allergenic foods, stick to textures your baby eats and likes.

If your baby has eczema or food allergies run in your family, talk to your baby’s medical provider before introducing peanut butter. The provider may recommend having your baby tested for a peanut allergy first.

 

Cow’s milk

Around your baby’s first birthday, you may gradually introduce your child to whole cow’s milk. Of course, continue to breast-feed your baby as long as you wish. Cow’s milk isn’t a replacement for breast milk or formula. But as your baby gains nutrients from a wider variety of foods, dairy milk can be an important source of vitamin D, calcium, fat and protein.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be given whole milk until age 2. Low-fat milk — such as 2%, 1% and skim — doesn’t provide enough fat for your child’s developing brain and shouldn’t be given until your child is 2 years old unless specifically recommended by your child’s medical provider.

Alternative milks — such as soy, nut and plant-based milks — are typically fortified with vitamin D and calcium, but most contain lower fat content than whole cow’s milk. Talk with your child’s medical provider before introducing milk if you have questions and especially if your child was diagnosed with a milk protein intolerance or allergy.

Keep in mind that you should limit your child’s milk intake to no more than 16 to 24 ounces a day. Higher intake may crowd out other necessary foods and is associated with iron-deficiency anemia.

Dr. Klaas and Dr. Cook are co-editors of  Mayo Clinic Guide to Your Baby’s First Years

Walter J. Cook, M.D.

Dr. Cook is a specialist in general pediatric care within the Department of Pediatrics, Mayo Clinic Rochester, Minn., and an assistant professor at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science. A father of three, including twins, he has cared for thousands of babies in more than 25 years of pediatric practice.

Kelsey M. Klaas, M.D.

Dr. Klaas is a pediatrician in the Division of General Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at Mayo Clinic Children’s Center in Rochester, Minn. She is the mother of two children who brings both a medical and new parent perspective to her practice and writing.

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