Peanut: From Term Of Endearment To Imminent Anaphylactic Risk

Back before we were feeding solid food to Mr. Baby, the possibility of certain food allergies freaked us out. Not so much stuff like shrimp or milk, because let's face it, shrimp are for rings and milk is basically gross, but rather the threat of what in our minds was the worst possible allergy of all: peanuts.

I mean, not for nothing, but avoiding peanuts is kind of crappy and depressing. Do I enjoy peanut butter? Not often. Do I stockpile Snickers bars? I guess those commercials are memorable. But you know how it is: You just don't want to be inhibited.

So one day we were neuroticizing about waiting two years to introduce peanuts with some friends who have a year's head start on child stuff and they asked if we had read that New Yorker article, the one about how everyone is wrong about peanut allergies, and we hadn't, but it was kind of thought provoking and made us check out different countries' health recommendations.

We started with places that spoke English: In Hong Kong, for example (see page 19 of this .pdf), health officials say it's OK to introduce peanuts (and birds' nests) after six months. It went on like this. In fact, recommendations from US doctors seem to be the most conservative of any place in the world. Sometimes it's kind of obvious — you think Scandinavians are going to put off serving fish for more than a year? Other times it just seems arbitrary — what three more months will do to protect a child from honey in Queens versus Belize, I don't know.

Then Jen talked to a friend of hers whose child had been recently diagnosed with a peanut allergy. She asked the doctor if it was because they had waited to introduce peanuts and the doctor wouldn't really come out and say yes or no. She pressed him: If they have another child, should they wait to introduce peanuts? The doctor only allowed that the guidelines were probably going to change very soon.

Now we wondered whether we should actually rush to introduce peanuts in Mr. Baby's diet. We thought about going to the lobby of the emergency room and feeding him a spoonful of Jif. As it happens, Jen's cousin and his wife visited us with their three boys — one of whom has several food allergies — so we got to grill them about it. As far as they could tell, they had no idea why their oldest had allergies and the others didn't. None of the armchair hypotheses panned out — e.g., eating peanuts during pregnancy versus avoiding them.

One bit of information was helpful: Children with peanut allergies never just drop dead on the spot. In addition to making our emergency room picnic idea seem awfully silly, it emboldened us to just give the kid some damn peanut butter already; the worst that tends to happen the first time is hives, at which point you take the kid to the doctor and they run tests; subsequent exposures get worse.

The New Yorker article talked about how Israeli children were practically weaned (someone should do a list of things that babies are "practically weaned" on) on a snack food called Bamba, which is sort of like a peanut butter Cheeto. We thought we might find some somewhere in the city, but before we did we just bit the bullet, mixed some old peanut butter with some breast milk and took Mr. Baby to the park to feed him his first peanuts. Why the park? It had something to do with being quickly able to run off to the hospital. This even though the park isn't really on the way to the hospital. But whatever.

We sat on a bench and fed Mr. Baby the peanut butter-breastmilk slurry and waited for hives to appear, which they of course did not, because I wouldn't be writing about it this way if they did come. Six hours, then 24 hours passed and nothing bad happened and we high-fived and felt good that Mr. Baby did not have a peanut allergy.

We did find Bamba, by the way — the Eastern European store on Ditmars sells it. It is even fortified with vitamins, which if you think about it is pretty fucked up: Can you imagine if Frito-Lay sold a version of Doritos with added vitamin A? Ralph Nader would cry. And you know what else? They're really good! And kids do take to them like nobody's business — they kind of crunch in a way that is relatively clean and disintegrate in a way that makes choking impossible. We bought a big box from Amazon, though they sent us the "adult" unfortified version; I don't think they really sell the kind with vitamins; we just sort of came to terms with it.

We still have the pediatrician's food recommendations on the fridge: no egg whites until 12 months, no fish until 15 months, wait 24 months for shellfish and peanut butter is not to be introduced until after 24 months. And every time we see the pediatrician and he asks us what Mr. Baby has been eating, I have to sort of lie and say avocados and rice cereal and selectively forget that Mr. Baby enjoyed his first langoustine at a tasting menu last August. Fortunately Mr. Baby understands little, if any, English. For the time being at least.

Posted: November 29th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: The Cult Of Domesticity | Tags: , , ,