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Allergen Free Breastfeeding: Pros and Cons

Breastfeeding is difficult.  There are so many things that could and do go wrong.  Imagine going through all of those struggles to discover that your babe is allergic to your milk!?  It is heartbreaking.  However, it is vital that you understand that you still have the opportunity to continue breastfeeding if YOU decide it is what you want.  

 

Pro:  Breast is best.
Breast milk is fascinating.  Your infant’s saliva is taken in by your nipple, analyzed by your body, and the milk is adjusted to exactly what your child needs.  For instance, your body may change the fat content percentage.  Breastfeeding also provides antibodies and bacteria which could enhance the child’s immune system and bacterial gut flora.  These are only a few example of several incredible facets of breast milk.

 

Pro:  Incredibly healthy for mom (and everyone else)!
Elimination diets are restrictive.  There are few processed foods which are completely allergen free.  Cutting out allergens will largely mean cutting out processed foods.  This diet change is extremely healthy for mom and usually enhances the diet of everyone in the household.  Always having meat, fruit, and vegetables available while reducing the amount of allergen containing foods in the house will affect everyone.  Not being able to eat out will lead to more homemade meals in place of eating out. 

 

Pro:  Save money on formula.
Hypoallergenic formula is EXPENSIVE!  There is limited formula available for infants with severe food sensitivities.  Commonly, infants diagnosed with severe food allergies will be given Elecare, Puramino, or Nutramigen.  A standard can of this formula costs nearly $50 a can, which will only last an average of 5 days.  From birth to year one, that is approximately $6,000* on formula in the first year alone!  Some parents may be assisted through their insurance or WIC, but many are not.

*Based on estimated 9,125 ounces of formula during first year of life [1].

 

Pro:  Allergen free breastfeeding may reduce colic.
In a study of 107 infants who showed high levels of distress (colic), breastfeeding mothers who excluded cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, and fish for 1 week recorded a 74% reduction in cry duration.  This is a 37% higher reduction than the control group who didn’t have dietary restrictions [2]. 

 

Pro: (Possibly) Decrease child's chances of allergies as they get older.
A scientific study of breastfed infants who have a family history of allergies compared a normal maternal diet to a diet free of cow’s milk, eggs, and fish.  The restricted diet group had a significantly lower prevalence of atopic dermatitis at age four [3]. However, there are several studies on this topic which contradict each other or point to genetics as the only reliable factor in determining allergy probability.

 

Con:  Eating out is (nearly) impossible.
While many restaurants now provide allergen menus, it is nearly impossible to find an allergen free item on any of them.  Telling the wait staff that you have a nut allergy is one thing, but insisting that you need a meal which does not contain any food allergens is another.  For this reason, eating out is incredibly problematic. In future posts, we will address where and how to eat out while on a restricted diet.

 

Con:  Traveling can be difficult.
Since eating out is so tricky, traveling is as well.  Prior planning and meal prepping is an essential part of allergen free travel.  

 

Con:  Alternative foods can be expensive.

We live in a time when stores are packed full of amazing alternatives to most traditional allergens and allergen containing foods.  However, you will find that these substitutes are often more expensive than their counterparts.  Coupons and smart shopping is a must if you want to purchase things like allergen free cookies.

 

References: 

1.  “How Much Money Does Breastfeeding Really Save?” The Simple Dollar, 10 Dec. 2013, www.thesimpledollar.com/how-much-money-does-breastfeeding-really-save/.

 

2. Hill, David J., et al. "Effect of a low-allergen maternal diet on colic among breastfed infants: a randomized, controlled trial." Pediatrics 116.5 (2005): e709-e715.

 

3. Sigurs, Nele, Gunnar Hattevig, and Bengt Kjellman. "Maternal avoidance of eggs, cow's milk, and fish during lactation: effect on allergic manifestations, skin-prick tests, and specific IgE antibodies in children at age 4 years." Pediatrics 89.4 (1992): 735-739.

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