I've just read the following interesting article regarding breastfeeding and allergies and would love your thoughts on it.
My eldest daughter was breastfed exclusively for 15 weeks and continued breastfeeding until she was 16 months old. However, she still has severe grass pollen allergies which my consultant told me were genetic and no amount of breastfeeding would have prevented them. As you can guess I was just a bit dismayed by this news as one of the main reasons I had chosen to breastfeed was so that my children would be less likely to go through the misery of hayfever that blights my life to this very day!
However, I'm always interested to find out what science has to say about the subject of allergies in relation to breastfeeding anyway.
It was interesting to me to note the fact that introducing solid foods like potatoes and fish was related to increased sensitivities to pollen, animal dander and dust mites, all of which I am allergic to but I was bottle fed and had these foods introduced very early on as was common in the 70's. On top of that potatoes are pretty important here in Ireland and almost every baby is weaned onto potatoes pretty soon after weaning commences.
Ayway, here's the article:
Delaying solid foods when children are babies may be tied to food allergies later on, Finnish researchers say.
Introducing eggs, oats, and wheat into an infant's diet late in the game -- around age 6 months -- was associated with food allergies by age 5, Bright I. Nwaru, MPhil, MSc, of the University of Tampere, and colleagues reported online in Pediatrics.
In a related finding, late introduction of potatoes and fish was tied to sensitivity to inhaled allergens, such as pollen, animal dander, and dust mites.
"Introducing solid foods late to the child may increase the risk of being sensitized to these allergens," Nwaru wrote in an e-mail.
Current pediatric recommendations suggest exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months to prevent allergic diseases. These recommendations have been based mainly on the assumption that an infant's gut mucosal barrier is immature, and that introducing solid foods early may instigate sensitization to foods and inhaled allergens.
But emerging evidence shows these recommendations lack a strong scientific basis, Nwaru wrote.
"The implication of our study on breastfeeding and introduction of solid foods -- like other recent studies have shown -- is that prolonging exclusive breastfeeding, thereby introducing solid foods late, may not prevent allergic diseases in the child," he added.
But he emphasized that the finding does not diminish the benefits of breastfeeding for six months among the general population -- merely that exclusive breastfeeding doesn't have a role in allergy prevention.
The researchers looked at data on 994 children from the Finnish Type 1 Diabetes Prediction and Prevention nutrition study. This was a prospective birth cohort study, so that information was available on breastfeeding, age at introduction of solid foods, and allergen-specific immunoglobulin E levels at age 5.
Every child had HLA-conferred susceptibility to type 1 diabetes.
In the study, mothers breastfed for a median of 1.8 months, and the median age at the introduction of the first solid food was 3.5 months.
Potatoes were the earliest food introduced to the children, followed by fruits and berries, carrots, cabbages, cereals, meat, fish, and eggs.
The researchers found that late introduction of potatoes, oats, rye, wheat, meat, fish, and eggs was significantly associated with a sensitization for food allergy, albeit after different time periods: 4 months for potatoes, 5 months for oats, 7 months for rye, 6 months for wheat, 5.5 months for meat, 8.2 months for fish, and 10.5 months for eggs.
Late introduction of potatoes, rye, meat, and fish was significantly associated with sensitization to any inhaled allergen.
Egg allergy was associated with late introduction of potatoes, carrots, cabbages, oats, wheat, rye, meat, fish, and eggs, while wheat allergy was related to late introduction of potatoes, wheat, rye, fish, and eggs.
In adjusted analyses, eggs, oats, and wheat were the most important foods related to sensitization to food allergens (P=0.007, P=0.004, and P=0.002, respectively). Potatoes and fish were the most important foods associated with inhalant allergic sensitization (P=0.043, P=0.028, respectively).
There was no evidence of reverse causality, when parental allergic rhinitis and asthma were taken into account.
The study was limited because children were selected on the basis of HLA-conferred susceptibility to type 1 diabetes, which may limit its generalizability to the general population.
Li Zuo, MD, of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, said the study was also limited by using food sensitivity but not food allergy as an outcome for the study.
"I am not supporting the conclusion of this article," Zuo said in an e-mail. "But I support the concept that late introduction of solid foods may not protect children from allergic diseases and I also support early solid food introduction for many children not at high risk for allergic reaction."
Zuo added that the topic is hotly debated by allergists, and believes the "answer to increased allergic diseases is not [based] on the timing of solid food introduction, but something that happens earlier."