Breastfeeding to Prevent Allergies

Jamie Martin Health Guide

    As mentioned in previous blog posts, my oldest daughter developed her allergy to milk when I started weaning her onto a milk-based formula. After having her milk allergy diagnosed, I continued to wean Meredith, but onto soy-based formula instead. In the three years that separate the births of my daughters, I read many articles and studies about food allergies, and discovered that some doctors and researchers theorize that children breastfed until age one are less likely to develop food allergies.


    When I became pregnant with my younger daughter, Abby, I was determined to breastfeed her until age one in case there was some merit to the studies I had read about. Even though there are differing views about this theory, I was determined to try anyway. After all, what could it hurt? Even if it didn't work, I would at least have the comfort of knowing that I had done everything I could do to ensure Abby didn't develop food allergies.

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    I'm happy to report that after a year of breastfeeding, and slowly introducing dairy milk into Abby's diet, she has not developed a food-based allergy. My allergist also suggested a delayed introduction of certain foods, such as eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, and shellfish, to help ensure Abby didn't develop other allergies. We didn't give Abby egg until she was 18 months old, and didn't introduce tree-nuts and peanuts until age 3. Luckily, everything has gone well with Abby, so far.


    If you've got a child with food allergies, and are planning another pregnancy, you may want to discuss some of these options with your pediatrician and allergist. Your doctors may be very much in favor of the idea, or may have no strong feelings at all concerning the possible link between breastfed babies and developing food allergies. From my standpoint, I was wanted to give it a try.


    As I said earlier, I didn't think there was anything to lose by breastfeeding Abby until age one. However, I was a little unprepared for the emotional and physical demands that come with nursing a child for that length of time. It's quite a commitment to take on the rigors of being a child's primary source of nourishment for 12 months straight. There were some days when everything went great, and then there were others when I would catch myself thinking "I just want my body back!" The situation can wear on you, especially if you've got older children that need tending to as well.


    I think I would've had a more difficult time coping on my bad days if it hadn't been for the support of my husband. On the days when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed, he would offer to pick up take-out for dinner, or do a few extra household chores for me so I could relax a little. I can't begin to tell you what his support meant to me.

    Based on my own experiences when it comes to breastfeeding for an extended period of time, I'd like to suggest that you sit down with your spouse and convey to him that it will require effort and commitment from both of you to succeed. I know it sounds corny and cliché, but communication is key in this situation. By default, men have no idea what it's like to have their body turned into human milkshake machine that provides 24/7 service to a highly demanding, albeit cute and lovable, customer. By making him part of the decision making process, it may help him realize that you will need his support and participation to ensure that your next child has the opportunity he or she needs to possibly avoid food allergies.

Published On: July 23, 2008