Eating Peanuts While Breastfeeding Could Protect Kids from Developing Allergies, Study Says

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Editor’s Note: This post is not intended as medical advice. Always consult a medical professional or physician before treatment of any kind.

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Having a child with a food allergy can be a terrifying experience, especially if your child’s allergy is life-threatening. According to CMAJ, a Canadian medical journal, 3-4 percent of kids have food allergies. And between 1997-2007, the incidences of food allergies in the U.S. have risen by 18 percent. This is a pretty a scary trend if you ask me.

Medical experts suggest that the steep increase in food allergies means that prevention is the key, but prevention can prove confusing for new parents when guidelines for allergen introduction seem to be constantly changing. In January of this year, for example, the Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP) changed its guidelines to recommend that babies without eczema or food allergy and who are not at increased risk, be introduced to peanuts when they begin solids. For babies who have severe eczema or an egg allergy, peanut introduction is recommended as early as 4-6 months of age (with doctor supervision, of course).

Yes, my jaw dropped to the floor when I heard that, especially since my kids’ pediatrician recommended I wait three years to introduce peanuts to my kids. I ended up waiting until my children were 12 months old, with my doctor’s approval. Suffice it to say, all of the data out there can get pretty bewildering when all parents want is to have a healthy child, who hopefully doesn’t have to deal with a life-threatening food allergy.

A new study might offer parents a simpler and more effective way to protect their kids from allergies — and it doesn’t involve grinding peanuts into a puree to serve to your baby. The study published in the September issue of Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, suggests moms who eat peanuts while breastfeeding may offer their babies some much-needed protection against future peanut allergies.

So how would this work exactly? Well, the idea is that kids who are introduced to allergens early, are better able to build a tolerance to the allergen. The small amount of allergen contained in breast milk might be just the right dose.

In the study, researchers monitored the diets of 545 children over a seven year period, collecting data on maternal and infant consumption of peanuts. At age 7, the kids were tested for peanut allergies and found that children whose moms ate peanuts while breastfeeding had the lowest incidence of peanut allergies. These children also were introduced to peanuts in their own diet before 12 months of age.

Pretty astounding, right? And the striking thing is that the incidence of peanut allergy rose significantly in kids whose moms didn’t eat peanuts while breastfeeding, or who weren’t exposed to peanuts before 12 months old.

For further clarification about the study, Babble caught up with pediatrician and certified lactation counselor, Sylvia Romm, who…

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