Breastfeeding and Allergies
A recent study done by the Albany Medical College, NY and reported to The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Annual Meeting suggests that there is a common mis-perception around breastfeeding and its impact on a child’s potential allergies. There is plenty of evidence that breastfeeding is best for the infant. (But, in my opinion, this is only true as long as it works for Mom.) Nutritionally, breast milk is the perfect food with added benefits but socially, financially, logistically and physically; only Mom can make that decision with each child and every time.
Everyone is aware of the benefits including:
- Blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes protection for the mom
- Calorie burning so Mom has an easier time losing post-baby weight
- More developed flavour palate for the baby
- Enhanced child immunity
- Increased thymus size (where protective T cells live)
- Vitamins and minerals are more absorbable when obtained from breast milk over formula
- Good fats are transferred to the child helping to build the brain and other tissues
- Some studies show breastfed babies are at decreased risk for being overweight
So what’s new in this field? There is a misconception that the breastfeeding moms should avoid the top allergens in order to prevent the child from developing a sensitivity. This idea never really made sense to me since an allergic reaction is an immune response and we already know that breastfeeding is good for immunity. Now this small study has provided a clue and pointed in a direction to help moms choose.
This study tested the immune response of infants in two categories: moms who ate the top allergens (wheat, dairy and peanuts), and those who avoided it. What they found was that the infants of the ‘avoiding mothers’ were more susceptible to allergy than ‘non-avoiding mothers’. The current hypothesis is that the mother ingests the food and develops an immune response herself and then passes that strength on to the child. This theory just feels right when passed through the common sense-o-metre.
The bottom line remains the same with a little more evidence supporting the breast. If you can and wish to breastfeed, do so knowing that eating allergenic foods passes along the flavour, nutrients and enhanced immunity to your baby.