Should I Feed My Baby Bamba?

Thanks to landmark clinical studies and recent medical guidelines, we now know that introducing allergy-causing foods (like peanut) to babies early and often helps prevent them from developing food allergies later in life. 

In fact:

Early introduction means starting to introduce allergy-causing foods like peanut as early as 4-6 months of age, and continuing to feed these foods several times a week, for at least 3-6 months.

One way that parents might have heard of to introduce peanut is Bamba, an Israeli peanut puff snack that played a role in the landmark clinical studies on early introduction. But is Bamba a healthy option to introduce peanut to your baby? Here’s everything parents need to know about Bamba, including how it wasn’t originally designed for babies. 

The 1960s: Beginnings Of Bamba

Bamba is a peanut puff snack, made in Israel from peanuts, corn, palm oil and salt. It’s an Israeli staple snack and cultural fixture—it’s easily that country’s most popular snack food. 

Bamba is known for displaying a baby on its blue bag. Osem, the company behind Bamba, claims that it picked the name because it sounds like a baby’s babbling. According to a story told by Osem, the company’s marketers wanted babies to say “Bamba” as one of their first Hebrew words. So, they made the name of the snack sound similar to ima (mama) and aba (daddy). 

But Bamba wasn’t actually designed for babies and young children. 

When Bamba was first introduced in Israel in 1964, it was a cheese puff snack. But that version of the snack wasn’t very successful. A year later, Osem began making four other flavors of Bamba, including the peanut puff version that’s now famous. Only the peanut version lasted longer than a year.

Around 1967, Bamba started becoming a popular snack among Israel’s military. The soldiers enjoyed Bamba so much that they brought bags of the snack to their families when they returned home. This caused Bamba’s popularity to balloon in Israel, especially among families with children. The public only thought of it as a children’s snack after that. 

2008: Dr. Gideon Lack Notices Bamba Helps Israeli Parents Introduce Peanuts Early

In 2008, Dr. Gideon Lack ran a study that compared the rates of peanut allergies among Jewish Israeli children to the rates of peanut allergies among Jewish children living in the UK. He examined how early cohorts of infants in each of these countries were first fed peanut, and how often infants ate peanut each month.

Dr. Lack found that the British children were 10 times more likely to have a peanut allergy than the Israeli children. 

He also noticed that the Israeli babies started eating peanuts much earlier, much more often, and much more frequently than the UK babies. They were largely introduced to peanut early via Bamba—many Israeli parents start feeding their babies Bamba not long after they start solids, and give it to their children regularly from that point on.

This early introduction of Bamba, Dr. Lack theorized, might have helped protect the Israeli babies against peanut allergies.

Dr. Lack decided to further investigate whether early peanut introduction could help prevent babies from developing peanut allergies later in life. 

Dr. Lack’s LEAP Study (2015)

Inspired by his 2008 findings, Dr. Lack spearheaded the landmark LEAP study,  or Learning Early About Peanut Allergy study. The results of this study were released in 2015. In the LEAP study, over 600 babies between 4 and 11 months of age at high risk for peanut allergy either consumed peanut at least 3 times per week or avoided peanut until age 5. 

In this study, the families that were assigned to feed their baby peanut used either Bamba or smooth peanut butter to introduce babies to peanut early and often. 

Now, new guidelines for introducing peanut to babies, including those from the AAP, NIAID, and AAAAI, are based on the LEAP study

Learn more about the LEAP trial from the New England Journal of Medicine:

Should You Use Bamba To Help Prevent Peanut Allergies?

Even though it has indirectly inspired landmark food allergy research, Bamba isn’t the best choice for introducing peanut to your baby. Here’s why.

Bamba is a finger food, only for babies eating solids 

Bamba is a finger food. You can also consider Bamba as an option to introduce peanut if your baby’s already very familiar with eating solids. It doesn’t work well in the critical window for introducing peanuts to babies (around 4-6 months of age). 

During this crucial window, introducing babies to allergy-causing foods helps them build up a tolerance (as the AAAAI, AAP and NIAID guidelines establish). However, many babies are not ready for solid foods at this early age. New guidance from leading medical organizations, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI); the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI); and the CSACI (Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology), recommends that in order “to prevent peanut and/or egg allergy, peanut and egg should be introduced around 6 months of life, but not before 4 months.”

“Peanut and egg should be introduced around 6 months of life, but not before 4 months.” – American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI)

One option is to soften Bamba with breastmilk or formula. Even with this option, though, many families will struggle to introduce their 4-6 month old babies to peanut with Bamba if their baby is not developmentally ready for solids at that age.

Bamba only contains 50% peanut.

Bamba isn’t just puffed peanuts. It also contains corn, palm oil, and salt. In total, Bamba contains only 50% peanut. 

Bamba is more than one-thirds fat, in part because of palm oil.

By grams, Bamba is more than one-thirds fat. It also contains saturated fat, because palm oil is its third ingredient.

Beyond containing this unhealthy fat, palm oil is also a controversial ingredient. 

To harvest palm oil, many producers use methods that are devastating for the environment. Often, palm oil producers will cut down large areas of tropical rainforest for their oil plantations. This deforestation threatens many endangered plants and animals’ habitats, and releases significant amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Bamba contains added salt that babies don’t need.

Bamba also contains salt, so it does not meet the standards of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Breastmilk already provides the exact daily amount of salt that babies need. And baby formulas contain similar amounts of salt, as they’re designed to replicate breastmilk. In light of this, the CDC advises against giving your baby any foods with added salt: “There is no need to add salt or sugar to your child’s food.” 

Bamba is a snack food that doesn’t meet baby’s nutritional needs, based on USDA guidance.

As we covered above, Bamba is a snack food that wasn’t originally designed for babies. And when we take a look at the USDA’s most recent Dietary Guidelines, it’s even more clear that Bamba is not the best choice for babies. 

In their new 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines, the USDA advises that babies’ diets have no room for empty, unhealthy calories, because they consume such small amounts of foods. The foods given in the period from birth to age 2 shape children’s lifelong eating habits, so it’s crucial to feed them healthy foods during this time. 

Specifically, the USDA advises against feeding foods high in sodium (salt), “avoid foods higher in sodium…salty snacks” such as Bamba. Says the USDA, “In addition to keeping sodium intake within limits for toddlers, another reason to avoid high-sodium foods is that taste preferences for salty food may be established early in life.”

“Avoid foods higher in sodium.” – USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans

So, with the salt and fat in Bamba, you might build unhealthy eating habits for your baby if you introduce it frequently.

Bamba only contains one allergen — peanut.

Peanuts are only responsible for around 22% of childhood food allergies. And out of the 9 most common food allergens, Bamba only contains peanut. 

Notably, Bamba does not contain egg or cow’s milk (along with peanut, egg and cow’s milk are the three top food allergies in young children). Egg allergies are about as common as peanut allergies, and cow’s milk allergies are even more common in young children than peanut allergies.  

Together, milk, egg, and peanut are responsible for around 80% of childhood food allergies.

Also, egg and milk allergies can have significant impacts on a child’s quality of life, because eggs and milk are ingredients in so many foods that kids typically enjoy. 

Preparing Bamba can be frustrating.

To match the peanut dosage used in the landmark LEAP study, you’ll have to calculate and measure out the right amounts of Bamba.

This can be frustrating. Since Bamba has added ingredients in addition to peanut (corn, palm oil and salt), one gram of Bamba doesn’t equal one gram of peanut. 

And you’ll need to prepare the right Bamba doses to feed baby peanut multiple times per week, over several months. 

Plus, since Bamba only contains peanut, you’ll need to prepare other snacks to cover the other most common food allergens.

How to introduce peanut instead of using Bamba?

There are easier ways to introduce allergy-causing foods early that follow guidelines from medical organizations. Recent powder-based products are designed specifically to introduce allergy-causing foods to babies, sometimes as early as 4 months of age. They are made to mix with baby’s food, and sometimes with formula or breastmilk for an even earlier start (even before baby is ready for solids). These options are far more suitable for babies than Bamba and be sure to look for options that don’t contain additives such as salt or added sugar. Learn more about these options on our Recipes page

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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.

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