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Should breastfeeding moms avoid eating common allergens?

Should breastfeeding moms avoid eating common allergens?

By and large, no. We want to avoid unnecessary avoidance of foods. It is well established that maternal diet during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding does not cause children to develop food allergies. So, I don't want any mother out there to avoid foods thinking that that's going to prevent their child from developing food allergies. And even when children have food allergies, very few mothers actually have to avoid that food in their own diet, because by the time that ends up in their breast milk, almost all those proteins are completely destroyed by their own body. And what they're giving to their babies is actually more nutrients and not the allergens themselves.

There are special circumstances where it is advised for mothers to avoid specific foods based upon the diagnosis of their child, particularly if they have something like cow's milk allergy or cow's milk induced proctocolitis, which causes some, you find painless blood in their diaper, usually around 4 to 6 weeks of age. Those mothers often are advised to avoid cow’s milk, but it often only has to be for a period of time. But even for children who have severe food allergies to things like peanut or egg or seafood, that they're at risk of having anaphylaxis, very few of those mothers need to avoid that food in their own diet.

I always recommend discussing this with your own personal allergist or your child's allergist because there's a lot of nuance involved and a lot of individualization to the recommendations, especially if the mother herself has food allergies. But, you know, by and large, please avoid some of the terrible advice that you may see online, especially in support groups where mothers report what they felt helped their child. Their story may not pertain to you at all. And anecdotes aren't evidence. And we know that there's a lot of unnecessary food avoidance going on. And if we can prevent that, that'd be great.

Food Allergy, Prevention
Answered by

David Stukus, MD, is a Professor of Clinical Pediatrics in the Division of Allergy and Immunology, Director of the Food Allergy Treatment Center, and Associate Director of the Pediatric Allergy and Immunology Fellowship Program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University College of Medicine. He is board certified in allergy/immunology and pediatrics.

Dr. Stukus has devoted his career to communicating evidence-based medicine and best clinical practice to colleagues, medical professionals of all backgrounds, patients, and the general public. In addition to providing clinical care for children with all types of allergic conditions, he participates in clinical research, quality improvement, patient advocacy, and medical education.

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