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passing allergies through breastmilk

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
In a book about managing allergies in children (sorry I don't remember the exact title) I read the information about breastfeeding with great interest and wanted to hear what you all have to say/add to this.

The book was promoting breastfeeding as a way to minimize the number of allergies that your child develops, saying that the best way to avoid allergies was to breastfeed exclusively for at least six months and to continue for as long as possible. I think we have all heard and will agree with that. The disturbing part was that they also found that breastfeeding children of mothers who had severe allergies actually developed MORE allergies than children who were formula fed. They just sort of threw this statement out there and did not really recommend NOT nursing under these circumstances.

My son and I have a strong bfing relationship and I can't imagine raising a child without the nursing relationship. However, it is also painful to see the host of health problems he is developing... a number of severe food allergies, environmental allergies, severe eczema, and now asthma. It pains me further since I had severe asthma and allergies as a child and know how unpleasant it all can be (and I think his are worse and he's starting MUCH younger than I did). He nursed exclusively until six months old, didn't really start eat alot of solids until after ten months old, and still nurses 5 or more times a day at almost 2 years old.

I'm now pregnant again and torn over whether or not I should bf the new baby. It brings me to tears to imagine not nursing my baby, but how can I conciously comprimise his/her future health?

I know there are many positive things the ds has gained from nursing... no ear infections, secure, confident, wonderful little boy. But I also see him on the nebulizer, inhaling drugs at such a young age and up half the night with terrible itching.

Plus, I know that asthma is worsened by improper breathing habits and since we cosleep, I wonder if he is learning my bad habits since a sleeping baby will mimick his mothers rythms during sleep.

Distraught Kanga
post #2 of 25
I don't think you bfing your ds gave him his health problems...I have really bad allergies and asthma...I still bf my 3 year old dd...she is the healthiest toddler I know...I think your ds was born the way he is...just as I was born this way...I have read that asthma and allergies are inherited from ones parents...definantly research before you make such an important decision. Good luck
post #3 of 25
Allergies are genetic, or rather the tendency towards allergies is genetic.

I don't know why or by what mechanism that bit about BF babies of allergic moms developing more allergies, but could it be that having inherited the tendency for allergies they react more readily to what mom eats?

What I've read most recently advises us to not eat peanuts during pregnancy and nursing, so as to not sensitize baby even before birth. Perhaps if the allergic tendency is strong in one's family, adding shellfish, other nuts, eggs, wheat, citrus, tomatoes, and other such allergenic foods to the avoid list.....holy cow what's left to eat?!

Humor aside, I wonder if the research will come to that?
post #4 of 25
Thread Starter 
Yea, I'm discussing this on the good eating board as well, re avoiding allegens. There is so much that I've simply resigned to avoiding eating too much of any one specific thing. With my son I ate a number of things almost everyday to add nutrients important for pregnancy to my diet... whole milk for fat, calcium and protien, pistacios for protien and folic acid, hard boiled eggs also for protien (I normally don't worry about eating protien and was told then and again for this pregnancy to up my protien intake SIGNIFICANTLY). So I'm trying my best to mix it up this time. I honestly can't imagine not nursing this baby. Can you imagine nursing your three year old while fixing up a bottle of formula for your 9 mo baby? How strange would that be. Mostly I bring this up to hear what you all have to say about allergies and nursing, maybe you've heard the same...

I know there is no real way to go back and not nurse my son to see if things would be better for him. Sometimes I wish there was a way to see where two different paths in life lead us. Has anyone seen the movie with Gweneth Paltro... "Sliding Doors" ? I guess I should take what I percieve to be the moral of that story in that the path that we choose or are given is the best one simply because it's the path that we're on.

Did that make sense?

Feeling better, Kanga

ps (can you tell I'm pregnant with these up and down emotions!)

edited to add:
I want to appolgize for saying that it would be strange to nurse your three year old and not your nine month old. I imagine that there might be some circumstances that prevent a mother from nursing her second child when she has choosen to allow her older child to self-wean. I did not mean to offend anyone who might be in such a situation.
post #5 of 25
I am really really REALLY skeptical about any author who claims that breastfeeding CAUSES food allergies. Food sensitivities do run in families however. But everything I have read says that breastfed babies are statistically LESS likely to have food allergies and asthma. Of course it must be painful if this was not true for you.

If asthma is a particular concern, Mothering magazine has suggested a link between disposable diapers and asthma, and vaccine reactions and asthma.

It may be that we are just more aware of food problems than we used to be. Or it may be written by a doctor who is underwritten by a formula company (It wouldn't be the first time a formula company behaved in an unethical manner.) Or maybe the doctor has read so many of the free "educational materials" from formula companies that he/she believes them.

Of course formula is lifesaving in certain cases. But if a mom unecessarily chooses to feed formula, they are increasing the chances that their child will have: infections including ear infections and respiratory infections, RSV, pneumonia, braces, speech therapy, cavities, obesity, depression,
lower IQ, colitis, diabetes, constipation or diarrhea, and more. Breast milk kills bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells.

for sources see

http://www.promom.org (click on 101 reasons, for 101 reasons to breastfeed)


I do personally believe pregnant and nursing moms should strongly consider avoiding peanuts, after what I have read.

That has GOT to hurt about the asthma you are dealing with! I am so sorry! Have you considered food sensitivities, such as dairy in particular, in your child's diet or yours (if nursing?) I have some relatives who hate cow's milk but their mom forces them to drink it and I can't help but wonder if their asthma is related to this.

I hope you find some answers and comfort. I have food allergies and so do many relatives, and having nursed one child a short time and the other much longer, I would not hesitate for one moment to nurse any future children. I just have a really hard time believing what one author says when it goes against everything else I have seen personally, and read...and when it implies that formula is better for any child, when formula is SO often a factor in allergies.
post #6 of 25
Until I see an unequivacably irrefutable study showing otherwise, EVERYTHING, and I mean that quite literally, everything I've read indicates that the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risks of formula feeding.

There's more to consider here than allergies. There's cancer rates, for both mom and baby. There's SIDS rates. There's rates of the other illnesses:Crohn's, diabetes, etc that are all higher in the formula fed population than they are in the breastfed population.

Look at the preponderance of the evidence. Balance that against one lone statement of an observation, which doesn't fit the rest of the data btw, and then reconsider your concerns.

If the mother has severe allergies, then the chances are good that her children will have allergies too. That's just a fact of life. Genetics can suck.

Shall those of us with allergies (and asthma in my case) then deny our children humanmilk that our species' babies have evolved to expect? Just because we have allergies we should increase our babies' risks by feeding them cow milk (a common allergen) or soy beans(another common allergen)? Where's the logic in that?

Relax Kanga. Nurse your new when the time comes and enjoy her.
post #7 of 25
Thread Starter 
Again thank you for the friendly reminders. He is certainly sensitive to many foods and environmental allergens which we are trying our best to limit his exposure to. He and I don't drink any cows milk and I've only just recently started eating yogurt and small amounts of cheese. Also no eggs, corn syurp, limited citrus and wheat, no onions. He gets b vitamins, acidolpholous, biotin, and omega 3 and 5s. All this mostly comes out of what we've seen him react to re his eczema. Then we've gone so far as to hire a house cleaner to dust vacuum and mop once a week. He doesn't use soap, no purfumes, double rinse our wash, line dry. We generally see some improvement for a few days before symptoms return. Sorry for rambling.

I think that Meiri might be right in that when the genes dictate allergies, these kids are more sensitive to what their nursing moms eat. Since I have yet to meet a peditrician who will admit this, I'm not surprised that the allergies seen in these kids is blamed on the breastmilk. Also, I didn't get the impression that the author of that book was trying to say do not nurse your kids. Only that in this one circumstance, a higher rate of allergies was observed. He could have done better by suggesting the possible link to food sensitivies to what the mom is eating, but perhaps the research on this has not been done yet.

Thank you all again. I'm going to get to work and remind myself daily to eat healthy, non toxic food and I definately look forward to snuggling up to nurse another little one.

post #8 of 25
Kanga, I feel for you.
I nursed my son for nearly 3 years and the whole time watching him suffer with his allergies was just heart wrenching. I was still pretty mainstream when he was just little and i did follow the doc's recommend to give him some Nutrimagin. I talked to the allergist about it. He was not at all happy that I would consider giving a child with known food allergies a formula of any kind. He is such an awesome allergist--I miss him!
Don't ever second guess nursing. Think actually of how much worse his allergies would be if you subjected him to perfectly identical food day in and day out. Like you mentioned, the variety is crucial and you are doing a great job.
If you need any help or advice, let me know. I have definitely been thre, done that! I think at one point I remember have close to 15-20 no-no's on my menu! And his allergies are so much better now it is wonderful.
post #9 of 25
ok, I am coming completely from left field here and I don't really like my own conclusions, which are most certainly complete guess work... BUT it actually makes sense to me that a breastfed baby might indeed be more at risk of allergies if mum is extremely allergic, before you flame me here is my thinking (in short and in very lay terms cause that is all I can offer):

Have any of you read Hilary's article on SIDS and vaccination? i have and she goes into a great deal of detail about the way the immune system works, for mothers and babies. As I understand it a great deal of the immune benefit of nursing a baby is that the mothers immune system essentially *teaches* the babies immune system how to work properly through the nursing relationship. Now asthma, allergies, etc are all immune disorders. What if the mother with extreme allergies (immune disorder) is teaching her babies immune system to be like hers (broken) through the breast milk? I imagine that in most cases the mother would have to have quite severe problems for there to be a negative effect on the baby, but it does make sense to me that it could happen this way.

Of course I could have completely misunderstood Hilary's article and as I say I don't much care for my own conclusions... I am feverently hoping that breastfeeding my own baby will help protect her from the family history of asthma, allergies and eczma. Perhaps if Hilary reads this she will have a more educated view to share with us.
post #10 of 25
phoebekate even if what you suggest is so, how could you (not oyu personally) guarantee that the substitute given instead of bm wouldn't have dire effects also in kids who are at great genetic risk?? cow milk and soy are such common allergens
post #11 of 25
I have to say that even if what I am guessing were true, I still don't know that it would be a reason to formula feed, as someone else said further up, forumla has a whole lot of other risks and there is no way of knowing if you wouldn't be worse off in the long run even if it did help the allergies. I guess to me I think it is possibly logical that what they are saying is true, but I don't necessarily think that it means you should use formula. I do believe that vaginal birth is harder on my pelvic floor than a ceaser, but I would still choose the vaginal birth any day for a plethora of reasons, sorry if that is an odd analogy but it is the best I can come up with at the moment....

I think it is often the case with difficult decisions that there is no perfect choice, whatever you choose has risks and advantanges, even with identical information people all choose differently because they have different priorities. The problem with making choices is that we so often choose to ignore the fact that just because an alternative might be better in some respects it will no doubt be worse in others.

I am not advocating formula, just saying it could be true that breastfeeding when the mother has severe allergies could possibly increase the babies risk of allergies, it still decreases a whole lot of other risks and is an amazing beautiful bond between mother and child.
post #12 of 25
Well, phoebe, it could be true but it isn't! So, no worries, mate. Allergic tendencies are passed thru DNA not milk. A breastmilk diet, with probable allergic triggers removed from mother's diet, is the best defense against allergies in the baby. They will probably outgrow many of their allergies sooner than an artificially fed baby would be able to.
post #13 of 25
I know in the last year I heard about a study that said that breastfed babies were more allergic (when all the other studies out their site just the opposite).

What they considered a breastfed baby was and amount of breastfeeding. Some women breastfed one day, one week, one month etc. and then switched to formula. In my book that is not a breastfed baby.

Studies do show that exclusively breastfed babies (6 months with no other liquids or solids) are less likely to have allergies or have milder allergies.

Genetically in my family we all have horrible allergies. I was formula fed and started having food allergies at the age of 2 or 3 years. Over the years I have grown out of so many food allergies.

Both of my children were exclusively breastfed the first 6 months before adding any other foods to their diet. They are now 6 and 9 years of age and have absolutely no allergies to anything in this world.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed, because genetically anything could happen.
post #14 of 25
phoebekate : I understand your point and was just trying to think it through myself - wondering how I might have contributed to my anaphylactic/atopic ds1's problems

I have also read the study firemom mentioned - their definition of "breastfed " was absurd
post #15 of 25
Don't forget too that a bf mom can identify possible allergy triggers much earlier than a abm feeding mom. This is simply because the bf baby gets more variety due to the dynamic nature of breast milk. So a study may conclude bf babies have more allergies simply because the parents are aware of more of the triggers. A baby getting cow or soy based abm can only identify a handful of possible allergies.
A side note: some of the parents with allergic babes I know have used the amino acid formula that is usually given to people with severe allergies or who are tube fed. I cannot remember the name of it right now, (which by the way is driving me nuts!) but even it has corn in it, which ds is very sensitive to.
post #16 of 25
Hi! My first son was ff and had SEVERE excema. Dr's tried everything, he was put on Alimenutm (sp) a special formula for allergies. Nothing cleared it up until we went to an awesome classical homeopath. DS was also allergic to milk and eggs (he was on soy formula before the Alimentum). I knew he'd be allergic to milk as I was also allergic. Flash forward to ds2. He is exclusively bfd. NO EXCEMA! He is sensitive to milk and wheat when I eat it, so I don't. My point here is that I have allergies, so does dh, and our kids do, too. Ds1 had a much worse time, and he was ffed! HTH
post #17 of 25
You're obviously very concious about what you and your son eat, so this probably isn't an issue for you. But just in case, I wanted to let you know I had asthma as a child and have mostly outgrown it. I now only have attacks around cats and if I injest even the tiniest bit of aspartame. Be careful if family members offer ds a stick of gum or some of grandpa's sugar-free candy. It's also in a lot of other products and they don't have a big warning (it's always in tiny print) about the aspartame...the biggest one being yogurt.

If you're drinking a diet soda every now and then, you might switch to the regular.

I just don't think anyone truly knows the dangers of pouring aspartame into our bodies. Between sugar and NutraSweet, I think sugar is the lesser evil.

Good luck to you and congratulations on your pregnancy!
post #18 of 25
Thread Starter 
What Pheobekate had to say was exactly where I was coming from and why the reported effects of bf with severe allergies made sense to me. Since my son is getting the benefit of my immune response when we are exposed to disease, it made sense to me that he would also get the unnecessary immuno response that my body has to allergens. HOWEVER, the author was refering to allergies in the mom of any sort (environmental) triggering different (food) allergies in children... (I will go hunt down this book I promise) SO this theory has some holes in it. I never had any food allergies that I took notice of. But no that I'm paying closser attention to my health, I think I had a milk allergy all along. I feel much better without it in my diet.

I think an important point is the connection between what you eat when you nurse when allergens are involved. I'm still stunned when peds discounts any connection between my nutrition and my son's eczema. Also, part of the problem is that when I go on an elimination diet, I unknowingly don't eliminate all sources of the trigger, so I don't see an improvement after a month or so and we slack off the diet (because these diets are HARD!).
post #19 of 25
Thread Starter 
HI It's me again,

It just occured to me that my milk dried up about a month ago (due to the pregnancy, certainly not a lack of nursing) and my son has had no improvement in is eczema. He must be getting only colostrum now (clear watery liquid?) when he nurses (5+ times a day, this kid is not letting up). I think his dad and I just need to do a better job of tracking down the culprit and eliminating it from his environment/diet.

I just also wanted to add my thanks for everyones support re this issue. It is turning out to be an interesting discussion for me.
post #20 of 25
Thread Starter 

the source

This information re passing on allergies was found in a book entitled "The Parent's Guide to Food Allergies" by Marianne S. Barber in the chapter "Preventing Allergies in Your Next Child". I reread the section and although she does state that bf children of mothers did worse re allergies than their ff counterparts, her advise to prevent allergies in your next child is to 100% committ to exclusive breastfeeding for AT LEAST six months, slowly introduce non allergenic foods (assume your child has allergies) and that mom should also avoid allergenic foods while nursing.
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