The following is a summary of current advice:
1. Breast feeding is still best and can help to reduce, if not delay, the onset of allergies. Seven times more bottle fed babies than breast fed develop allergies early on. Cow’s milk can contain up to 50 potential allergens. As the baby’s gut wall is still very permeable (“leaky”), undigested cow’s milk proteins can pass directly into the baby’s bloodstream and cause an allergic reaction. Breast milk contains several protective proteins and substances which help in allergy reduction. However, with allergies being so common nowadays, even breastmilk alone is not perfect, and allergies can occur in breastfed babies. (Petropulos, 2011)
2. Breast feeding for a least 4-6 months is advised, and preferably also whilst solids are being introduced.
3. The pregnant or breastfeeding mother does not need to eliminate any foods in particular from her diet- it does not seem to work as an allergy prevention strategy.
4. In babies at high risk of allergy (e.g strong family history), who are unable to breastfeed or cannot breastfeed exclusively, current advice is to use a hypo-allergenic formula for the first 4-6 months – please discuss with your healthcare practitioner. Soya and goat’s milk are NOT hypoallergenic.
5. Solids advice has changed recently and we now advice solids introduction any time between 4 and 6 months when the child seems ” ready”. After 6 months there is no need to hold back on any particular foods, even those considered to be “allergenic” such as egg and peanut butter. Delaying introduction of these foods has not been shown to reduce allergies.
6. Supplements such as omega 3 oils and probiotics are still under investigation
It is important to remember that allergens can still pass to the baby through the Mother’s breast milk and invoke an allergic reaction in the baby. Most foods are broken down extensively by the time they pass through the breastmilk, so babies who react to substances in the breastmilk are generally sensitive to very small amounts of the protein. Substances that are most often found to cause the reactions are dairy products, wheat, eggs, soya, peanuts, and fish. Therefore when an allergy is suspected in a breastfeeding baby, it is advisable that the mother consults a qualified healthcare practitioner to discuss the possible elimination of allergenic proteins from her diet. This should be done under careful supervision, so it is advisable never to attempt an elimination diet without the guidance of your Health Care Practitioner.
I also suggest that you seek advice from a Dietician or Nutritionist when introducing solids, or starting on a restrictive diet, to ensure that your baby receives adequate nutrition.