Can breastfeeding help you introduce allergens and promote food freedom for baby? Could introducing allergen foods get in the way of breastfeeding? Today, we'll break down the science.
Breastfeeding provides a wealth of benefits for baby, including strengthening the immune system and helping protect against certain conditions and diseases.
Feeding baby common allergen foods, like peanut, egg, and cow’s milk, is also highly beneficial for their immune system. Key medical guidelines recommend introducing baby to these foods early and often, starting between 4-6 months of age, to help their immune system recognize these foods as safe.
But can breastfeeding help you introduce allergens and promote food freedom for baby? And does introducing allergen foods get in the way of breastfeeding? Today, we'll break down the science.
Can Breastfeeding Help Promote Food Freedom?
Baby gets a taste of the foods you eat while you're breastfeeding, and the proteins in those foods may end up in your breastmilk. But can breastfeeding help give baby a future of food freedom, where baby's immune system recognizes common allergen foods as safe to eat?
Even though your breastmilk may contain proteins from common allergen foods after you eat those foods, there isn’t enough evidence to prove that breastfeeding can help prevent food allergies on its own.
And some studies that claim breastfeeding may prevent food allergies could have biased results, as they didn’t take important factors into account. A report in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) points out that early studies on breastfeeding and food allergy prevention “did not adequately control for family history of allergy and infant allergy symptoms.”
Still, breastfeeding could be linked with protecting against another “allergic” condition – eczema. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports some evidence that exclusively breastfeeding for at least 3-4 months may reduce baby's eczema risk. And eczema is one of the biggest risk factors for developing food allergies.
Feeding Allergens Vs. Allergens In Breastmilk
Thanks to landmark clinical studies and medical guidelines, we do know that directly feeding baby common allergen foods, like peanut, egg, and cow’s milk, encourages healthier outcomes. When baby eats these foods early and often, this helps baby’s immune system learn to recognize all foods as safe and nutritious.
Exposure to the foods you eat through breastmilk, though, is likely not enough to “count” as early and sustained allergen introduction.
As our Science Director, Dr. Erika Nolte, shares, “Some allergens pass through breastmilk, but not all of them. The research is still in progress figuring out exactly which allergens can pass through breastmilk and if it is enough of the allergen to help babies develop tolerance to the food.
“Research has shown that how much of the food your baby eats is important for building tolerance – if they just have a taste of the food and only eat it occasionally, they are still at risk for allergies. So at this point, doctors don't think that breastfeeding alone can prevent food allergies, even if mom keeps those foods in her diet.”
This means you’ll also need to feed baby common allergens in addition to feeding breastmilk.. You could:
- Directly feed baby solid foods with the allergens as ingredients (as long as they’re safe for baby and don’t pose a choking hazard)
- Mix powders made from the allergens into baby's food, or
- Mix powders made from the allergens into a bottle of breastmilk (as long as they’re made to safely dissolve in breastmilk).
Still, don’t remove common allergen foods from your own diet when you breastfeed. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) guidelines advise that there’s no evidence to suggest that common allergens should be avoided while breastfeeding.
Guidelines on Early Allergen Introduction and Breastfeeding
What do guidelines recommend for breastfeeding and allergen introduction? The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend exclusive breastfeeding for about the first 6 months. At around 6 months, parents can then introduce solids (also called complementary foods) alongside continued breastfeeding. Then, parents can continue breastfeeding, along with feeding age-appropriate complementary foods, for up to 2 years or longer.
Notably, though, key medical guidelines recommend that you introduce your baby to allergens as early as 4 months of age. These crucial medical guidelines recommend feeding your baby common allergen foods (including peanut, egg, and cow’s milk) starting between 4 and 6 months of age to promote healthier outcomes.
And thanks to landmark studies, we know that baby needs to eat allergen foods multiple times per week – for at least several months – for the needed exposure.
Introducing these allergens to your baby, early and often, gives them the best chance at food freedom – a lifetime where they're free to safely eat those foods, without worry that they will develop an allergic reaction.
Does Allergen Introduction Interfere With Breastfeeding?
Some parents are concerned that early allergen introduction will negatively impact breastfeeding, especially since breastfeeding guidance recommends exclusive breastfeeding until the 6-month mark.
But several clinical trials, involving thousands of babies and their parents, have shown that feeding baby allergens does not interfere with breastfeeding.
Many babies are ready for solids between 4-6 months old, and are able to eat them along with breastmilk. So, rest assured – offering baby food that contains common allergens won’t make baby less willing to drink breastmilk. It also shouldn't lower your milk supply, especially since breastmilk will continue to be baby’s primary nutrition source in this age range.
Breastfeeding and Allergen Introduction: How Ready. Set. Food! Can Help
Clinical guidelines affirm that the best time to introduce allergens is between 4-6 months of age. And the earlier you introduce allergens, the better the chances of healthier outcomes for baby. If you're breastfeeding, this means you'll need to introduce allergens while breastfeeding to give them the best chance at food freedom.
But what if baby isn't yet ready for solids? Or, what if you want to follow recommendations to exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months, and wait to introduce solids until after the 6-month mark?
Ready. Set. Food! is a safe, easy way to introduce allergens to any baby, even if they aren't yet ready for solids, and even if you're exclusively breastfeeding. Our Stage 1 and Stage 2 Mix-Ins safely dissolve into a bottle of breastmilk. So, you can use them to introduce any baby to peanut, egg and cow’s milk, as early as 4 months of age. In fact, it’s the only allergen introduction system for babies that starts in the bottle stage.
Our pre-measured daily packets contain only organic peanut, egg, and cow's milk powders, with no added sugar and no artificial additives Plus, they’re recommended by over 1,000 pediatricians and allergists. Just pour, mix, and feed, and baby will get the allergens they need.
In the U.S., 95% of breastfeeding moms use bottles to feed baby pumped breastmilk. This means Ready. Set. Food! fits right in with most parents’ pumping and bottle feeding routines. But if you'd like to stay away from giving baby bottles, you can still use a supplemental nursing system to feed baby breastmilk with Ready. Set. Food! mixed in.
If you prefer, you can also mix Ready. Set. Food! into the solids you're using to feed baby along with breastfeeding.
Start your baby’s journey towards a lifetime of food freedom with Ready. Set. Food!
All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
See the FDA Peanut Allergy Qualified Health Claim at the bottom of our homepage.
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