Can I Prevent Baby from Developing Allergies?
My husband and I both have allergies. Is there any way to prevent our newborn from developing food allergies?
This is the million-dollar question and the subject of intense discussion in pediatric allergy circles. Women are often advised to avoid certain foods, such as peanuts, when they're pregnant or breastfeeding. There's only one hitch: "We don't really have studies that say that's definitely going to make a difference," Dr. Sicherer says. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its nutrition recommendations, saying there is no convincing evidence that women who avoid peanuts or other foods during pregnancy or breastfeeding lower their child's risk of allergies. You still might take these precautions on an individual basis, however. "If mothers start to see signs of allergy in the first 6 to 8 weeks of life," says Robert A. Wood, MD, director of pediatric allergy and immunology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore, "then we like to intervene on a case-by-case basis and modify the mother's diet if it's reasonable."
The one thing allergy specialists do seem to agree on is that breastfeeding has a protective effect, to a point. A review of 18 studies in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that allergy-prone children who were exclusively breastfed for three months were less likely to develop eczema (a rash that's often considered the first sign that a child is allergy prone) compared with those who were fed formula. The AAP generally recommends exclusive breastfeeding for all babies for the first six months. If your baby is at risk for allergies and you choose not to nurse or are unable to, opt for a hypoallergenic cow's milk-based formula, in which the milk proteins are broken down so they won't provoke an immune response.
What about solid foods? The AAP says there?s no evidence that holding off on giving eggs and fish in a baby?s first year will decrease his risk of allergies. After your baby is 4 to 6 months old, give him one new food at a time, waiting two to three days before moving on to the next one.