Can breastfeeding really increase your child's risk of food allergies?
A new study out of Australia is suggesting that there is in fact a link between breastfeeding and food allergies--specifically nut allergies. Professor Marjan Kljakovic conducted a study of 15,000 preschool children revealing that 3.2 percent had a peanut allergy and 3.9 percent had allergies to other nuts, as well as that Australian children are 1.5 times more likely to have a nut allergy than British children. His conclusion? "What's different is either during pregnancy or during the breastfeeding period, mums were probably eating more nuts than they do in the UK and therefore the babies were getting allergies to nuts"--a statement that leaves me unfazed because of my own experience with my breast-fed baby.
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When my son was a month old, he had an unprecedented two-hour long bout of inconsolable crying just before bedtime. By the time I got him to settle down, I was a teary, frazzled mess. I was convinced that my helpless breast-fed newborn was in pain and that I had poisoned him with something I ate. But that night and most of the next morning went on without any extended crying sessions. Then right before lunchtime it started again. This time, it lasted an hour and my husband witnessed it as well. We decided to ring our pediatrician. Our new-parent panic was only heightened when the receptionist urged us to bring him in.
After an examination and discussion of his symptoms, the doctor ran through a short list of possibilities: colic, reflux, gas, etc. He also mentioned that it could be because of something I had eaten, but stressed that this was the least of his concerns. He went on to explain that the likelihood of a baby being allergic to something in breast milk is incredibly slim--and he suggested that something I'd eaten in the previous couple of days could have made my baby gassy, which would result in some discomfort, but stated that an actual allergy was highly unlikely. Two months later, we've had no repeats of that stressful, still unexplained incident.
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In an audio clip found on Australia's ABC News website, the professor in the study repeatedly uses the word "probably," suggesting that even if he is onto something, there's still a lot to be fleshed out before he can confidently state that there is in fact a direct association. Especially since the American Academy of Pediatrics' most recent study definitively states that there is no relation between a pregnant woman's consumption and her child's future nut allergy, but rather that mother's with a family history of allergies should be cautious and possibly avoid nuts and other potential allergens while nursing--a fact also recognized by the Australian professor. So no, I don't plan on changing my snacking habits, but if you have a fussy, uncomfortable breast-fed baby along with a family history of food allergies, you might consider discussing it with your child's doctor.
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