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Breast-Feeding Seems to Protect Against Some Allergies
Date:1/7/2008

one third by breast-feeding. But the studies that have been done so far have not proven that breast-feeding will significantly impact childhood asthma or food allergies."

The incidence of allergic diseases such as asthma, food allergies and various skin conditions has exploded during the past few decades. In children 4 years of age and younger, the incidence of asthma has risen 160 percent, while the incidence of atopic dermatitis has almost tripled. And the incidence of peanut allergy has doubled just during the past decade, according to the report.

While genetics certainly plays a role in the development of these diseases, environmental factors such as diet are also strongly related.

The new report reviewed different evidence on nutrition during pregnancy, breast-feeding and the first year of life that might affect the development of allergic disease. Its major findings are as follows:

  • Currently, there is no evidence that what a mother eats during pregnancy or breast-feeding plays a major role in preventing atopic disease in infants. There is some evidence, however, that avoiding certain foods during breast-feeding may help prevent atopic eczema.
  • Exclusive breast-feeding for at least four months for infants at high-risk of developing atopic disease decreases the risk of developing eczema and cow milk allergy during the first two years of life.
  • In high-risk infants who aren't breast-fed exclusively for four to six months, the use of hydrolyzed infant formula (as opposed to formula containing cow milk) may delay or prevent the onset of atopic dermatitis.
  • Exclusive breast-feeding for at least three months protects an infant against wheezing in early life.
  • There is no good evidence to support the use of soy-based infant formula to prevent allergies.
  • There is no evidence to suggest that delaying the introduction of solid foods before the recommended 4 to 6 mo
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