Does breastfeeding prevent allergies in babies?

Breastfeeding

Does breastfeeding prevent allergies in babies?

When it comes to choosing to breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby, the choice often comes down to what is best for your baby. Every mother wants what is best for their children and each method has its benefits. Those who choose to go down the natural route of breastfeeding might do so due to the amazing benefits it can bring to your child’s health. This is unsurprising as breast milk is the result of thousands of years of evolution. It is specifically designed to create healthy offspring.

You can link breast milk to higher IQ scores in later childhood, a lower chance of obesity, a lower risk of diabetes and some cancers, as well as being the perfect way to bond with your baby. Breast milk also provides your baby with essential antibodies that help build up their immune system. This is why some studies claim breastfeeding lowers your child’s risk of asthma and other allergies. But is this true?

Should you do it?

The rate of growth in people with allergies over the past few decades is astonishing.  Only a generation ago, you may have been hard-pressed to find a child in the class with a food allergy. Now, as much as 40% of children suffer from allergies in the UK.  The reasons for this sharp increase in allergies vary. No one knows for sure why it is happening. But, theories include a lack of exposure to allergens, increased exposure to allergens, changes in diet, or living in environments that are too clean.

Some studies suggest that a lack of breastfeeding results in increased risk of allergies. They argue formula doesn’t provide the same benefits to the immune system as breast milk. Paediatricians from the American Academy of Pediatrics claim that exclusive breastfeeding for at least four months helps protect children at high-risk against milk allergies and eczema. This is in comparison to children who were formula or partially breastfed. Other studies suggest that breastfeeding reduces the occurrence of allergies in children. It is argued to be most effective when the mother ate eggs, peanuts, and shellfish during pregnancy. These findings relate to the theory that exposure to allergens early on can reduce sensitivity to them. This could prevent allergies.

On the other hand

But, evidence also exists to suggest that there is no link between breastfeeding and allergy prevention in children. A Swedish study found that adults who were breastfed had a higher risk of developing hay fever and eczema. Other studies found no significant difference in allergies between breast and bottle-fed children. What this tells us is the evidence to support the idea that breastfeeding prevents allergies is weak at best. Studies supporting breastfeeding for allergy prevention do not show a causal link between the two things, only that they are related. This means that any links found could be due to other factors.

For example, some studies found a link between class and allergies. Higher class individuals had an increased risk of hay fever but a lower risk of asthma. The varying results from studies on the causes and prevention of allergies show a need for further research. From the evidence, we cannot say breastfeeding definitely reduces the risk of allergies. So, when it comes to deciding whether to breastfeed or bottle-feed, weigh up the evidence but, like with vaccines, don’t let the fear of allergies stand in the way of your decision.

If you’re worried that your child has an allergy, book an appointment with one of our consultants today. Our consultants will provide their expert option we have a choice of more than 400 allergy tests in the clinic as well as screening test for 112 allergens; allowing you to take the next steps in reducing your little one’s symptoms.

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