Food Allergies in Breastfed Babies with Eczema

food allergies in breastfed babies with eczema

Breast milk is liquid gold. But not for my eczema baby, due to her food allergies. Which is so heartbreaking, knowing that something so full of goodness is actually making her skin flare up, causing her distress and many sleepless nights. In this article, we weigh the pros and cons of breast milk when it can actually trigger known food allergies in breastfed babies, and how the mother’s restrictive diet can allow baby to continue to reap the benefits of this liquid gold, while being free of eczema symptoms.

Breastfeeding is the gold standard

A mother’s milk is the best gift to any baby. Nature designs it to give baby the best chance of survival. As baby grows, the contents of the breast milk changes to allow baby to continue to thrive, based on whatever proteins, vitamins and fats that baby needs at each stage of growth.

Chock full of antibodies, breast milk helps baby fight off infections by viruses and bacteria. I experienced this so many times with my four kids. When I fell sick, the germs get passed on to the other children easily, even the adults at home. Only the breastfed child remained healthy as he or she bore the immunity idol.

Breast milk is easily digested by infants, unlike formula milk, which can give some unpleasant digestion problems like spitting up, constipation, etc.

The biggest reason why I love breastfeeding is the bonding I get with my babies: the skin-to-skin contact, the eye contact, and the feeling of closeness is something beyond description, something only mothers will understand.

This website: www.webmd.com has more information on the benefits of breastfeeding.

The dilemma

Due to the immense benefits, any mother, within her means, will want to breastfeed her baby. But when breast milk actually carries some harmful effects, a dilemma sets in, and we have to weigh the benefits against the distress it causes the baby.

My daughter, M, was born an itchy baby. From the first day of her life, she started scratching her legs. There and then, I knew I had an eczema baby. It is in the family, one of my older children has it too.

Fortunately for M, the first year of her life, her eczema was contained to itchy skin. Her skin was still smooth and strong, so the scratching did not cause broken skin. Just some bothersome nights, which we could still live with.

Two days after her one year old vaccination, she developed an eczema flare that went totally out of control and never abated for one whole year, until we sought the help of a homeopath, who gave remedies that finally removed whatever toxins that affected her since the vaccination.

In that one year, we never made the link between her flare and vaccines. In fact, I had no idea vaccines could cause such a long-drawn reaction. So as we were trying to identify the cause, we ordered a skin prick test that revealed several allergies: egg, peanuts, and dust mites. Despite removing these from her life and my diet, since I was breastfeeding her, her flare continued.

It was only after the homeopathic treatment for vaccine that saw her persistent flare finally calming down. After that, her reaction to the food allergies through the breast milk then became apparent. If I were to eat any wrong food, like pasta that had egg as one of its ingredients, or some cake at a social event, she would flare, and it would be obvious.

So came the dilemma. On top of the benefits of breastfeeding discussed above, I knew she would be my last baby, so I wanted to breastfeed her for as long as I could. But it meant utmost discipline on my part to watch my diet, as eggs and peanuts are practically in all foods in the Asian culture!

I did go on an egg free and peanut free diet for close to a year, but it was really sapping the life out of me, to not be able to eat out freely. There were times I cheated, I have to admit. And M suffered. Then I felt so guilty, even though her allergic reactions were not life-threatening, they were enough to cause bad itches, sleepless nights and cranky days. So eventually we called it a day with breastfeeding.

Food allergies in breastfed babies – breast milk as the carrier

Breast milk can trigger food allergies in breastfed babies. Whatever foods the mother consume, after being digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, can go into the breast milk. These include the problematic proteins that trigger allergic reactions in babies, which could come from dairy, eggs, nuts, etc.

So the solution is straightforward: a mother’s diet free of allergens is usually all that is needed to calm down the eczema itch and inflammation, or any other allergic reactions. But many times, it is easier said than done. Then the last resort would be to stop breastfeeding and use formula (if baby is younger than 6 months), or let baby (older than 6 months) go on a solid diet, monitored closely to ensure it is free of allergens.

Unless there are conclusive indications that baby is allergic to certain foods, for instance through blood tests or skin prick tests, otherwise the breastfeeding mother should not go on any restrictive diet simply for the fear of food allergies developing in the child, as the benefits of a well-balanced diet outweigh the small chance of baby having an allergic reaction. In fact, some elementary research has shown breastfeeding to reduce the risks of babies developing eczema.

Restrictive diet – remove allergens

egg common food allergy in breastfed babies

If there are known allergens that your baby has tested positive to, remove every trace from your diet. In these days of processed foods dominating the food industry, it means scrutinising the labels. Not just that, you have to be aware of ingredients that can hide the allergen without spelling it out explicitly.

If your child has not tested positive to any allergen, but yet is disturbed by a silent itch and rashes, some low level of inflammation, and you suspect it has to do with your diet, then these are the main foods you can consider removing from your diet, the top 8 allergens:

  • dairy
  • egg
  • peanuts
  • tree nuts
  • fish
  • shellfish
  • soy
  • wheat

For more information about these top 8 allergens, visit this website: www.mayoclinic.org.

For a start, you may want to just remove the first four on the list, as these are the main culprits when it comes to food allergies in babies with eczema. If your baby’s symptoms do not improve, then add the next four to the list of foods to remove from your diet while breastfeeding.

As you go about your investigative work, do note that the list of foods to avoid should always be added on, and not switched around. This is to save the confusion and mis-conclusions that may arise due to multiple food allergies.

If baby does not improve after you remove egg from your diet, he may be reacting to soy which you are still taking. If you were to try removing soy next, and at the same time put back egg into your diet, then he will continue to display allergic symptoms, this time due to the egg. At the end of the day, you may think that baby is not allergic to egg or soy, since cutting them out from your diet does not help. When in fact, he could be allergic to both.

So you would have wasted all the time and effort, while baby continues to be disturbed by the allergic symptoms.

Final thoughts

It is very possible to overcome food allergies in breastfed babies, by making the conscious effort to remove the allergens from your diet. If it is not practical or sustainable to do so, then consider stopping breastfeeding. It will be in the best interest of the child, given the circumstances. So do not feel guilty about it, motherhood is tough and stressful enough. Every mother will do their best for the health and well being of their child, so do not let anyone judge you for whatever decision you make.

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10 thoughts on “Food Allergies in Breastfed Babies with Eczema

  1. This is very true. My sister was born itchy and now she has a baby who I think has the same symptoms. I think that every mother should pay attention to nutrition but also some lighter exercise because it will positively affect her and her baby. I don’t know how to convince my sister that she needs to stop smoking because that can provoke some serious side effects.

    • Hi Daniel,

      Oh dear, I agree that your sister needs to stop smoking, especially when she has a young child around. I’m not sure if these would help:

      How to quit smoking

      Want to quit smoking?

      I also have some other articles on allergies, as my daughter who was born itchy was later diagnosed with egg and peanut allergy. So it may be something that your sister would like to look into, for herself and her baby. 

      Let me know if there’s any way I can help.

  2. Thank you so much for your post! Me wife and I just recently got married! My wife has eczema! So I feel like there is a good chance when we have kids it could be passed on down to them!

    I myself have learned recently about how amazing breast milk is with all it’s nutrients! In regard to vaccines…there are tons of cases out there where people have developed some sort of side effects…I haven’t read all vaccine inserts but I’m sure there is probably something on the insert saying that it is a possible side effect, or something similar to it.

    Its to bad the inserts aren’t advertised more!

    Thanks again for your post! I know that my wife will definitely be breastfeeding once we have kids!

    All the Best,

    Chris

    • Hi Chris,

      Congratulations on your recent marriage!! 

      Yes, please do research vaccines and their side effects carefully, before deciding on which path to take for your kids when they come along. If you dig around, you would find many things have actually been swept under the carpet, for reasons only the big pharmaceuticals and those related to them would know.

  3. Wow! You bring up a lot of good points! I would have never thought to clear eczema, by changing your diet, but it makes sense! The skin is the largest organ in the body, and whatever we put into it, will come back out, one way or another! 

    Allergies are the number 1 cause of a lot of health issues, especially skin related! It all starts from the inside/out! Once you change your diet, you start seeing a lot of positive changes right away!

    I have a friend who’s baby has eczema, and she’s breastfeeding, so I will definitely be sharing this article with her!

  4. It is really a good article. I learned a lot about eczema, its effect and what causes it. I’m sure this article helps a lot of parents to look into. This has deeply looked into what are the main effects of eczema. And not just the effects it also gives me a lot of information about how to take care of it using vaccines and also in an organic way.

  5. Allergies are sometimes really hard to pinpoint, and eliminating certain foods are a good way to start, but can take time and a lot of work.  I agree that Mothers should not feel guilty, because motherhood is hard and every mother wants the best for their child. I really don’t know too much about eczema, but there is much controversy around vaccinations.  

    • Hi Jenny,

      Thank you for dropping by. Yes, elimination diet to pinpoint triggers and sensitivities takes a lot of hard work, but it is worth it, to clear the internal inflammation that occurs because the body doesn’t like some stuff that we take, and to remove all the discomforts that come along with the symptoms of eczema. 

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