The LEAP study has shown that introducing peanut to infants helps reduce their risk of developing a peanut allergy. But a 2021 survey has shown that there are disparities in the populations of parents who tend to feed their babies peanuts before 6 months and those who don’t.
Dr. Erika Nolte, our Science Director, dives into these findings and explores how to close this gap.
In a world where childhood food allergies, especially peanut allergies, are a growing concern, the landscape of recommendations has shifted over time.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) once advised delaying peanut introduction until a child turned three, in response to the escalating prevalence of pediatric food allergies. However, a pivotal moment arrived with the Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) trial in 2015, which showed that introducing peanuts as early as 4 months old and feeding them consistently reduced the risk of peanut allergy by 81%.
Prompted by this revelation, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) revised their guidelines in 2017, advocating for the early incorporation of peanuts to prevent allergies in high-risk infants—an approach now embraced by the AAP.
Spanning the months of January to February 2021, the Center for Food Allergy and Asthma Research ran a comprehensive national survey. The survey engaged parents and caregivers of children aged 7 months to 3.5 years, delving into their peanut consumption habits, awareness of guidelines, grasp of recommendations, personal beliefs, caregiving practices, and demographic backgrounds.
The 2021 Survey: Disparities in Allergen Introduction Patterns
This study found that allergen introduction had improved somewhat since before the 2017 guidelines were released. But only 17.2% of parents surveyed reported feeding allergens before their baby was 6 months old.
Unfortunately, there were significant disparities among parents who fed peanuts by 6 months and those who did not. The parents who fed their babies peanut by 6 months were more likely to be white, and more likely to earn a higher income.
This study provides a critical update on the progress made since the LEAP trial and the NIAID guidelines, but more action is needed. Here are my key takeaways from the findings, and what they mean for parents and pediatricians.
Mind the Disparities
Parents who were aware of the NIAID guidelines were more likely to feed peanuts before 6 months old and have better perceptions of feeding potential allergens than unaware parents. The study's revelations underscore the need for focused efforts to bridge the knowledge gap surrounding guideline awareness and adoption.
Disparities persist, demanding strategies that transcend racial, educational, and income boundaries, ensuring equitable access to information and preventive measures.
Empowerment through Education
Pediatricians emerged as critical points of guidance, influencing early peanut introduction. Yet, their pivotal role is often hindered by constraints such as limited resources and time. Addressing these challenges could amplify their impact and serve as a cornerstone in nurturing informed caregiver decisions.
The chasm between perceived and actual risks of allergic reactions will require transformative educational campaigns.
About one third of parents in the survey did not feed peanuts because they were afraid of an allergic reaction, but only 1.4% of all infants had an allergic reaction.
By enlightening caregivers about the rarity of severe reactions and fostering preparedness, we can empower them to navigate the intricacies of early peanut introduction with confidence.
Ready. Set. Food!: Helping to Achieve Equitable Allergen Introduction
Through our Giving Back program, Ready. Set. Food! is helping to close the early allergen introduction gap. We’ve distributed free 6-month plans of our Ready. Set. Food! early allergen introduction system (Stages 1 and 2) to low-income families, including uninsured and publicly insured families, as part of this Giving Back program.
Many of our Giving Back program families have applied for assistance online. But through Memorial Hermann Health System, we’ve educated low-income families on early allergen introduction in person along with distributing free 6-month Ready. Set. Food! plans. At the 4-month-old well-child visit, along with talking to parents about vital early allergen introduction guidelines, pediatricians give the Ready. Set. Food! allergen introduction system to families in need of assistance.
Ready. Set. Food! is committed to making food freedom accessible to all babies, including those whose families need financial assistance. Our goal is to make early allergen introduction safe, easy, and accessible for every family.
All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
See the FDA Peanut Allergy Qualified Health Claim at the bottom of our homepage.
New Study Shows That Infant Anaphylaxis Usually Resolves With One Epinephrine Dose
A recent study has shown that, when infants experience severe aller...
8 Types Of Picky Eaters (And How To Get Them To Eat)
Not all picky eaters are the same – there are actually several diff...
Pregnancy Nutrition: What To Eat In The First Trimester
What to eat in the first trimester that will nourish your body, pro...
Formula Feeding Amounts: How Much Formula Should You Feed Baby Per Day?
How much formula should baby drink per day? It depends on their age...