Last updated on 24 August 2009

Peanuts during pregnancy, breastfeeding and early childhood

peanuts

In August 2009, the Government revised its advice to consumers about eating peanuts during pregnancy, breastfeeding and the first few years of life, in relation to the risk of developing peanut allergy in childhood.

The change in advice followed a major review of the scientific evidence that showed there is no clear evidence that eating or not eating peanuts (or foods containing peanuts) during pregnancy, breastfeeding or early childhood has any effect on the chances of a child developing a peanut allergy. Therefore, the Government’s previous advice that women may wish to avoid peanuts during pregnancy and breastfeeding and not introduce peanuts into their child’s diet before three years of age, if their child has a family history of allergy, was no longer appropriate.

The new advice is given in the table below. This advice refers only to peanuts (also known as monkey nuts or ground nuts), and not to other foods that can sometimes trigger allergic reactions (such as eggs, milk, wheat, and other nuts such as hazelnuts, almonds and Brazil nuts).

The Government is currently funding a number of studies on peanut and other food allergies, with the aim of improving understanding of how and under what circumstances these conditions develop. It is hoped that these and other studies will provide more conclusive evidence in the future.

Life stage Advice on eating peanuts
Pregnant or planning to have a baby
  • If you would like to eat peanuts or foods containing peanuts (such as peanut butter) during pregnancy, you can choose to do so as part of a healthy balanced diet, unless you yourself are allergic to them or unless your health professional advises you not to.
  • You may have heard that some women, in the past, have chosen not to eat peanuts when they are pregnant. This is because the Government previously advised women that they may wish to avoid eating peanuts during pregnancy if there was a history of allergy in their child’s immediate family (such as asthma, eczema, hayfever, food allergy or other types of allergy). But this advice has now been changed because the latest research has shown that there is no clear evidence to say that eating or not eating peanuts during pregnancy affects the chances of your baby developing a peanut allergy.
  • If you have any questions or concerns, you should discuss these with your GP, midwife, health visitor or other health professional.
  • If you choose to avoid eating peanuts or foods containing peanuts during pregnancy, you can do so by reading the ingredients list on food labels, where peanut must be declared by law if it is an ingredient.
  • Find out more about what to eat when planning to have a baby or pregnant on our eatwell site.
Breastfeeding or have an infant under 6 months old
  • If you would like to eat peanuts or foods containing peanuts (such as peanut butter) when you are breastfeeding, you can choose to do so as part of a healthy balanced diet, unless you yourself are allergic to them or unless your health professional advises you not to.
  • You may have heard that some women, in the past, have chosen not to eat peanuts when they are breastfeeding. This is because the Government previously advised women that they may wish to avoid eating peanuts when they are breastfeeding if there was a history of allergy in their child’s immediate family (such as asthma, eczema, hayfever, food allergy or other types of allergy), in case small amounts of peanut in their breast milk increased the chance of the baby developing a peanut allergy. But this advice has now been changed because the latest research has shown that there is no clear evidence to say that eating or not eating peanuts when breastfeeding affects the chances of your baby developing a peanut allergy.
  • Government advice to all mothers is that you should try to exclusively breastfeed your baby until about six months of age. Breastfeeding provides benefits to both mothers and babies.
  • If you have a child under 6 months and are not breastfeeding, then there is no reason why you should avoid consuming peanuts or foods containing peanuts, unless you yourself are allergic to peanuts or have been advised not to consume them by your health professional for other reasons.
  • If you have any questions or concerns, you should discuss these with your GP, midwife, health visitor or other health professional.
  • If you choose to avoid eating peanuts or foods containing peanuts when you are breastfeeding, you can do so by reading the ingredients list on food labels, where peanut must be declared by law if it is an ingredient.
  • Find out more about what to eat when breastfeeding on our eatwell site.
Introducing your child to solids
  • You should try to exclusively breastfeed your baby until about six months of age (see advice above for women who are breastfeeding).
  • If you choose to start giving your baby solid foods before six months (after talking to your health visitor or GP), don’t give them any peanuts, other nuts (such as hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts etc.), seeds, milk, eggs, wheat, fish, shellfish, or foods containing these ingredients until after six months of age. This is because these foods can sometimes trigger development of a food allergy.
  • When you give these foods to your baby for the first time, it’s a good idea to start with one at a time so that you can spot any allergic reaction. If you think your child is having an allergic reaction, you should seek urgent medical attention. Common symptoms of an allergic reaction include one or more of the following: coughing; dry, itchy throat and tongue; itchy skin or rash; diarrhoea and/or vomiting; wheezing and shortness of breath; swelling of the lips and throat; runny or blocked nose; sore, red and itchy eyes.
  • You may have heard about previous advice to avoid giving a child foods containing peanuts before three years of age, if there was a history of allergy in the child’s immediate family (such as eczema, hayfever, food allergy or other types of allergy). This has now changed because the latest research has shown that there is no clear evidence to say that this will help to reduce the risk of your child developing a peanut allergy.
  • If your child already has a known allergy, such as a diagnosed food allergy or diagnosed eczema, or if there is a history of allergy in your child’s immediate family (if the child’s parents, brothers or sisters have an allergy such as asthma, eczema, hayfever, or other types of allergy), then your child has a higher risk of developing peanut allergy. In these cases you should talk to your GP, health visitor or medical allergy specialist before you give peanuts or foods containing peanuts to your child for the first time.
  • Whole peanuts or whole nuts should never be given to children under five because of the risk of choking.