Introducing Peanut Butter the Easy Way

We lucked into a fabulous babysitter, Liz. She’s a competent college kid who always leaves the house picked up, brings a library book to read during Roy’s naptime and tells us he is so good that we should pay her less. I swear the last time she was here, she cleaned our microwave.

Back in March, our regular daycare provider took a weeklong vacation, so we scheduled Liz for a few mornings so I could still get a little work done. Before she left that first day, she asked: Would I mind if, in the future, she baked us some cookies while Roy napped? Seriously. She asked for permission to bake us cookies. I’m not much of a baker, and Clint rarely gets around to it. So yes, Best Babysitter In the World. We would very much appreciate your fresh-baked cookies.

Turns out the girl has some serious oven skills. The next day, I came home to a batch of the most perfectly round, perfectly chewy peanut butter cookies. Clint and I oohed and aahed over them that evening, marveling at our luck in finding such a kind, thoughtful and responsible sitter who could also whip up a mean baked good.

Though it was late March, and technically spring, the next morning I awoke to a full-on snowstorm. (This is Minnesota, after all.) Somehow, Liz made it to our place, and before I braved the roads to hole up in a coffee shop for a few hours, I asked if by chance she’d given Roy a cookie. She hadn’t. “Oh, good,” I said. “He doesn’t eat peanut butter yet. I exposed him to it once, but they say the second time would be more likely to trigger an allergic reaction. I just never seem to be up for that stress,” I told her.

“I could do it,” she offered.

Hmmm. I entertained the possibility for a split second. First of all, no peanut allergies exist in our family, so the chances of Roy being allergic are pretty slim. Second of all, I’m confident Liz can deal with pretty much anything, and I’d only be a few miles away. Before I got to a third point, I snapped back into reality. I am not going to hand that part of my job over to my 20-year-old babysitter, no matter how awesome she is. I told her thanks, but no thanks. The consequences could be quite serious. The roads are too bad if they were. I’d do it myself eventually.

I got stuck three times on the way to the coffee shop. No kidding. As in thank-god-I-have-a-shovel-in-my-trunk, strangers-pushing-my-car-for-me stuck. It took me nearly an hour to go a couple of miles. But once I got there and settled in, I got some work done, then headed back home, without incident, to spend the afternoon with my baby.

He was asleep. Liz gave me the usual update—how much Roy ate, how many “presents,” as she calls it, he left her. “Oh, and I gave him some peanut butter cookie,” she added. “He was fine.”

You guys. My babysitter introduced my child to peanut butter. Against my direct orders. I was stunned.

My first reaction was to ask, “When?” It’d been a few hours. No swelling. No wheezing. No hives. Nothing. OK. Well.

After Liz left, I immediately called Clint and told him what happened. As we spoke, my bewilderment wore off and I found that in its place wasn’t anger, but relief. Amusement, even. It was a dangerous game she played there, but she had all the best intentions. And everything turned out fine. Had it been anyone else—a friend, a grandparent—I don’t believe we would have had such a laid-back reaction. But Super Liz took matters into her own hands and, once again, made our lives easier. To our amazement, we were OK with it.

Now we’re getting ready to introduce shellfish, to which we DO have a family history of allergies. As easy as she made it the first time, I’m definitely not leaving this one to the sitter. Any advice? How did you introduce the high-allergen foods? Did you stress about it as much as I did? How would you have reacted to the sitter doing the job for you?

Image © flickr user diekatrin

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  1. by Lars

    On July 7, 2011 at 10:52 am

    I would have a big problem with any sitter hitting the manual override, so to speak. There has to be trust in that relationship. As in, I tell you what and what not to do with my kid, and I trust that you will do what I say. Even if the intentions are good, the underlying premise (“I know better than you, mom and dad”) is troubling.

    On the other hand, dang, peanut butter cookies? Score.

  2. by Eve

    On July 7, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Does Liz travel to Iowa?

    This is a great topic. We are “those” people who send food with the kid each day, even though his daycare provides food. The Papa wants to make sure Buddy is only getting the good stuff-most of which we grow or raise. We have had a list of what foods can be introduced when on our fridge since we introduced solids. Each food had been crossed off as it was introduced. When Buddy was exactly 11 months, 3 weeks and 6 days, The Papa said,”I think today will be a peanut butter and honey sandwich day!”

    To which I said,”He was born two weeks late, I’m okay with that. Maybe we should just give him peanut butter and hold off on the honey.”

    Papa, “Oh. Well, he’s had peanut butter.”

    Me, “When was that?”

    Papa, “Gosh, maybe last weekend, and then on Tuesday and again yesterday.”

    Me, “Wow, well, I guess he isn’t allergic. The honey should be new!”

    Papa, “yeah, about that….”

    You get where this is going. For some reason we were not at all on the same page. I guess I have been a bit relieved that The Papa has taken this part of parenting on. He knows my limits. This seems more of a commentary on relationships than food introduction. I would probably feel WAY different if there was a history of allergies or if a reaction actually occurred!

  3. by Stefanie

    On July 7, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    The fact that your babysitter knew that it was a big deal, knew to take it seriously and had addressed it with you before hand is so grown up of her – some babysitters would have done it without thinking and forgotten they had and you would have been none the wiser! She did it the way she did and all worked out – and plus, good story for Roy when he’s bigger!
    We have been on the other side of the spectrum. Royce has eaten so much that is “not ok” because we are very relaxed about it – PLUS he has gotten to the point where he wants to eat what you are eating, and therefore, “Babysafe” food will not do. We have paid attention to what has been introduced when, and have noticed certain things make the tummy bind up – which is a family thing, but we have found things to compensate and gone from there. I think it’s good to be cautious, but any guideline should be taken with a grain of salt – if everyone in your family is allergic to nuts, obviously you wouldn’t try. If no one was, you’d be relaxed about it. Most importantly is one new thing at a time and pay attention!:)

  4. by Jennifer

    On July 8, 2011 at 8:57 am

    I have severe allergies to tree nuts. Life-threatening-can’t-breathe allergies. My kids and nuts and the whole should I give it to them, should I not, question is one of the biggest stresses for me as a parent. I would not have been ok with a Liz situation, it would have severely damaged my trust in her. But, on the other hand, I might have done well to be a little bit more relaxed than I was, so I’m not saying my imagined-response to this would have been best. Sounds like it works for you and that is what counts. SHE BAKES COOKIES!

    Because I am so allergic myself, we kept all of our kids away from nuts until they were 3, and then they were tested. Only one of my 3 tested positive for the allergy, and he’s since outgrown it. I think the guidelines are a bit different now, though, than when mine were babies, even just a few years ago. Then we were told to stay away completely. I think it’s different now.

    Enjoy Liz!

  5. by MAMA DIZASTRE

    On July 9, 2011 at 8:35 am

    When my son was a year old, a couple of my friends with two year old’s shared about how they gave peanut butter to their toddlers in their vans by the hospital. I thought this sounded like the most ridiculous idea. They explained to me the risk of life threatening allergies, I made a slight mental note, none of us had food allergies so I knew our chances were lower.
    The first time I gave my son peanut butter he was totally fine. I felt so relieved. That is until the second time I gave him peanuts, boy I wished I had parked the van outside the hospital before feeding him.
    He is still alive, in fact he’s 4 and a half. He now carries an epi pen and knows never to accept food from anyone but the designated “safe people.” Unfortunately Anaphylaxis is a lot more common than it used to be and if a babysitter of ours would not listen and feed my children something I’ve asked them not to I would never have them back again.
    We continued to expose him to new foods and he has survived. Peanuts were the worst, after that we got him tested for a bunch of different foods and he tested free and clear.
    With our new babe I’ll probably be a little more paranoid, I will probably have allergy tests done after one exposure. It’s true what they say about the second time- you know for sure by then!

  6. by Julia

    On July 9, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    Can I have Liz? I’ll pay her in wine. And dental work.

    Whoops, just saw that she is 20. Just dental work, then.

  7. by Susan

    On July 10, 2011 at 10:02 am

    As an infant teacher, I completely get where Liz is coming from … I frequently end up telling parents to let me introduce table food if they’re worried about choking and gagging. But, I will NOT tell with allergenic stuff if the parents haven’t given me 100% permission.

    As a parent of a highly allergic child (to peanut), this makes me furious. We waited until we had a day we could spend 8 hours in the ER if we had to (ended up being a summer day when we were both off work). Gave her 1/2 of a peanut butter cookie, she only ate 1/2 of that, and within 15 minutes we were headed to the ER — and spent 5 hours waiting for her to quit vomiting and hives to go away. Absolutely no history of food allergies in either side of our families, and yet our daughter has a very severe allergy (we were told anything about .35 is considered allergic, she was 20.6). This was the very first time she’d had anything containing peanut. The only family history of allergies we have is that both my husband and I are allergic to sulfa drugs.

    Our allergist told us that any other kids we have will have a much higher likelihood of ANY allergy thanks to our daughter’s peanut allergy (and our environmental and drug allergies), but it could manifest as environmental, a different food, or drug.

  8. by Berit

    On July 11, 2011 at 9:29 am

    In retrospect, in Liz’ defense, I’m guessing if I’d have given her a “No, absolutely not,” she would not have. I think my considering her proposition made a difference. For what it’s worth.

    That said: your tales of peanut allergies are absolutely awful, Susan and Mama D. So sorry you had to go through that. Must have been terrifying. And without family histories…. In the future, I’ll be more clear & resolute. And Lars’ point is a good one as well. Oddly, it’s probably what I would have said to a friend telling me this story.

    Oh, and Eve? I think you’re right to be relieved. Sounds like your hubby saved you some worry.

  9. by Berit Thorkelson

    On July 11, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Jen: I missed you! I didn’t know you were allergic. If I were you, I would have done what you did (delaying, testing) no question, AND I would not have even considered Liz’ offer. In fact, it wouldn’t have even come to that as I’m sure I’d have made it clear to anyone who came in contact with my kids that we had a strict no-nuts policy, so there wouldn’t have even been pb cookies in the house in the first place. Totally different set up, for sure…

  10. by Sara

    On July 14, 2011 at 9:41 am

    What L said…!

  11. by Heidi

    On August 4, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Liz sounds great… although I might have had a big of an inner “Hmph” about her giving him the cookie w/out permission. But alls well that ends well…

    As for the shellfish- I would ask the doc for your son to be tested. If he doesn’t agree/doesn’t think it’s necessary, I might do my own little testing… in the parking lot of the dr’s office before an appt!! Perhaps a very small piece in his mouth.

    My husbands brother has a shellfish allergy… who knows, my 7yr old &/or 8yr old could be allergic. The thing is… we don’t like fish (or shellfish) in this family so they really haven’t been exposed to it.