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Breast Feeding

Breastfeeding when mother has allergies

02/08/2007

Question:

I suffer from allergies. My specialist has informed me that new research shows that the best thing I can do to stop my allergies being passed on is to NOT breastfeed. As per all information previously feed to me this seems very strange. But as he is the top specialist in NZ I feel he wouldn`t tell me this unless he thought it to be the case. Is there research that shows this?

Answer:

There is abundant but controversial literature on this topic.

The best and most convincing studies are those that claim a protective effect of breast milk against allergies, both food and other environmental allergens.

The problem is that the tendency toward allergic disease is largely genetic.

Another is that many infants are fed formula in the hospital nurseries before they are breast fed.

If a mother has a certain food allergy she usually avoids it if she can, but many mothers feel they SHOULD drink milk for the calcium, and do so because of what they have read, etc.

The same may be true of other foods.

Respiratory allergens are hard to avoid, so the child is genetically predisposed and environmentally exposed whenever the mother is.

Mothers with high IgE levels who breast feed are more likely to have allergic babies than those with low IgE levels, and those who bottle feed. Those with low IgE levels who breast feed have children with a lower incidence of allergies than their formula fed counterparts. That is, for them, breastfeeding is protective against allergies.

Research is still ongoing. The numerous benefits of breastfeeding, added to the majority of literature that shows a protective effect of breastfeeding against allergies, tend to weigh in the direction of breastfeeding being the favored means of nutrition for the baby in a family with allergies.

For more information:

Go to the Breast Feeding health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Jeanne L Ballard, MD, FAAP, FABM Jeanne L Ballard, MD, FAAP, FABM
Professor Emeritus, Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati