The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League talks about avoiding and relieving allergies too. Here is an excerpt:
Protection against allergy is another of the many advantages a baby receives from breastfeeding. Your baby will not be allergic to your milk; you can count on this with certainty. It is a law of nature that infants never become sensitized to their natural food.
Proteins make the critical difference. The protein in human milk is totally compatible with human babies, but the proteins in cow's milk and in formulas based on cow's milk are potential troublemakers for the human infant. Some babies, when first exposed to these foreign proteins, become sensitized. When they are again fed cow's milk or cow's milk formula, they react with a variety of symptoms: stomach upsets, vomiting, diarrhea, stuffy nose, rashes, general crankiness. Even one bottle of formula, fed during the night in the hospital nursery while mother "gets her rest," is enough to sensitize some babies to cow's milk proteins and produce allergic symptoms months later.
Not only will a baby never be allergic to his mother's milk, but breastfeeding can be a factor in protecting the baby from future allergies. Many studies have found that babies who were exclusively breastfed for several months or more had fewer allergic symptoms later in childhood.
A 1988 study reported in Annals of Allergy found that allergies were less likely to occur among breastfed infants and that breastfeeding, even for a short period, was clearly associated with a lower incidence of wheeze, prolonged colds, diarrhea, and vomiting. More recently, a 1995 study published in Lancet followed children from infancy through adolescence (seventeen years of age) and found that breastfeeding provided long-term protection from eczema, food allergy, and respiratory allergy.
A Miracle Cure
For some infants, breastfeeding serves as both a preventive measure and a cure for allergic disease. One of the most dramatic cases of an extremely ill baby getting well on mother's milk came early in La Leche League's history. Lorraine and Emil Bormet's two-and-a-half-month-old David, formula-fed since birth, had been suffering from almost continuous diarrhea, breathing difficulties, and eczema. Different formulas had been tried, including soybean and meat-based varieties, with no improvement in David's condition. As a last resort, the doctor suggested that human milk was probably the only thing David could tolerate.
Lorraine located a nursing mother several miles from their Illinois farm home, and the mother agreed to help. Following David's first feeding of human milk late one evening, his astonished mother reported that, "he fell asleep and slept through the night for the first time in his life."
Convinced of the value of human milk, the Bormets wondered if Lorraine could bring in her own milk, even though it had been almost three months since the baby's birth. They contacted La Leche League for information. Milk production, we could assure her, is stimulated by the baby's sucking, and so she began the painstaking work of encouraging David to take the breast. Lorraine stayed in close touch with Marian Tompson, one of La Leche League's co-Founders, and David continued to receive human milk from generous donor mothers. Eight days after she began her efforts to breastfeed, drops of milk appeared. Some weeks later, Lorraine Bormet was completely nursing her baby, who by then was symptom-free, healthy, and content.
In the years since the Bormet story unfolded, other mothers with similarly allergic babies have contacted La Leche League, and many have found that, despite a late start, they could provide their own milk for their babies."
There is a lot of research out there about breastfeeding and how it is absolutely best for baby. Like I said above, I believe that there are many things that can contribute to the development of allergies. Even though babies can still develop allergies, breastfeeding is clearly the perfect food for your baby, and we encourage you to exclusively breastfeed for at least 6 months before introducing anything else into their delicate system.
If you are a breastfeeding mom (or will be soon) and want to meet with other breastfeeding moms for advice, support, encouragement, etc, join us at Educated Mommy tomorrow evening (Thursday) at 6:30 p.m. for our Breastfeeding Support Group!
We hope to see you then!
La Leche League International (1997). The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, Sixth Revised Edition. New York: Penguin Group.