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Thread: Breastfeeding new baby after food allergies in firstborn

  1. #1

    Default Breastfeeding new baby after food allergies in firstborn

    My firstborn has a life-threatening allergy to dairy. He wasn't formally diagnosed until he had an anaphylactic reaction to some butter on toast when he was 7 months old, but while breastfeeding him, I had suspected a problem very early on, and had cut milk out of my diet from when he was about 3 or 4 months old, until around 6 months, when he seemed to tolerate milk in my diet again. It kills me to think what I put my son through in those first few months: he was miserable and I *knew* something wasn't right, and yet everyone kept telling me that it was normal and some babies are just fussy.

    Well, I'm pregnant again, and due soon. I really want to breastfeed this new baby too, but I'm terrified that she will have allergies too. I know statistically her odds are higher, since she has a sibling with allergies, but I am at a loss as to what I can do to prepare. I hate the thought that I might cause her discomfort and pain because of something I eat. My son's allergist told me that early and frequent exposure is the best chance I can give her to avoid developing allergies, and suggested I give her one bottle of cows-milk based formula a day to give her the best chance of not developing an allergy, and either way, making sure that cows milk is part of my own diet, but I consumed a ton of diary with my son, and he's still allergic.

    Does anyone have any thoughts or experience on how I can approach feeding this new baby to both give us the best chance of successfully breastfeeding, while not developing allergies or prolonging unnecessary distress if she does have them?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Breastfeeding new baby after food allergies in firstborn

    Hi, I am sorry you are having this concern that has clearly rocked your confidence.

    If it were me, I would suggest research this more. Perhaps your allergist can suggest reading material for you because I wonder what the basis of her suggestion is. Perhaps you can discuss this with an IBCLC and ask them to point you to the current info and what exactly it says.

    Even if early introduction is recommended for dairy in such a case, and I am not sure it is, isn't a whole meal every day possibly overkill? and starting when, exactly? Introducing potential allergens earlier rather than later is fairly new thinking based on limited studies, and I am pretty sure it is not like you should introduce the allergen in the first few months even so...but I honestly have not read about this for a couple years and may not be up to date.

    The studies I am aware of about early exposure involve peanut butter and gluten and I am not sure how complete the agreement is yet that even these studies are a solid basis for changing the previous recommendations or how to change them. Biologically normally, a human baby would not have any reason to have dairy for a year or more, yet while dairy intolerances are pretty common at least among some populations, isn't a serious dairy allergy fairly rare? I am pretty sure if there was any evidence breastfed babies were more prone to serious dairy allergies than formula fed babies, we would know about that.

    Also of course many people- whole cultures- do not eat dairy as a rule. Are these people more or less prone to serious dairy allergies if they do by chance eat dairy? I mean I honestly do not know, but these are the questions I would ask myself. Giving your baby a bottle of formula every day seems like an extreme intervention and I would want to know that it was a solid one. As far as you eating dairy yourself, it makes sense, but I can see how that might be very difficult if you have a child who could die if they eat dairy! So even that perhaps needs to be checked out.

    This is not to say your allergist is incorrect, it is just that many doctors have limited knowledge about breastfeeding and that is why I am suggesting get more info. The way most people have early and frequent exposure to potentially allergenic foods is though breastfeeding and receiving minute amounts of whatever their mom eats that way. Your unusual experience with your child aside, this is why breastfed children in general tend to have less severe allergies than others.
    Last edited by @llli*maddieb; July 25th, 2017 at 03:52 PM.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Breastfeeding new baby after food allergies in firstborn

    Thank you for your reply.

    The most recent research confirms that early exposure to allergens in allergy-prone children (such as siblings of a child with a food allergy) seems to have a somewhat prophylactic effect, but best as I can tell, this is introduced directly via solids, and thus no earlier than 4-6 months old. Dairy allergies are actually one of the most common food allergies in young children, however they are also one of the food allergies most likely to be outgrown, so relatively rare in older kids and adults. That's good news for my son (he's already showing strong signs of outgrowing his allergy). However allergies often don't manifest until the child is slightly older - 7 months is pretty early, and allergy testing is unreliable in babies under 12 months. It is only really in hindsight that I can tell that my son was showing signs of his dairy allergy even as a newborn: I don't blame his pediatrician for missing it at all, an allergy was one of the less likely culprits, it just happened to be the one in our case, but I do feel horrible that my son suffered so much because of it, and because it was *me* eating the dairy and passing it on to him in my milk.

    The issue is, now that I have one child with a food allergy, statistically, I am much, much more likely for any other children to develop them (and not necessarily the same allergy, just a food allergy in general). I already plan to ensure my diet includes all the common allergens so that I pass on what I can via my milk (I can manage eating dairy myself when my son is in bed for the night). But I did that with my son and he's still allergic anyway.

    I guess what I am looking/hoping for is other ways to give this baby the best chance of not having me make her sick, and/or identifying much sooner that there is a problem so she doesn't have to suffer like my son did. And in the absence of that, some reassurance that I can still breastfeed this new baby when she gets here without unnecessary risk.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Breastfeeding new baby after food allergies in firstborn

    Of course you want more firm reassurance and I am sorry you are not getting that.

    And in the absence of that, some reassurance that I can still breastfeed this new baby when she gets here without unnecessary risk.
    So did the allergist tell you that breastfeeding would put your new baby at more risk or that breastfeeding caused your older child to have a life threatening dairy allergy? I mean, that is a real stretch from what I understand about it. Just because breastfeeding did not protect your older child from developing and allergy does not mean breastfeeding causes the allergy. Perhaps being breastfed reduced the seriousness of your child's reaction and it would have been even worse otherwise!
    The most recent research confirms that early exposure to allergens in allergy-prone children (such as siblings of a child with a food allergy) seems to have a somewhat prophylactic effect, but best as I can tell, this is introduced directly via solids, and thus no earlier than 4-6 months old.
    Yes this was my understanding as well, although I was not aware that dairy was one of the foods that had been studied. In any case, allowing a child to eat some dairy at 4 months is a very different proposition than feeding a newborn dairy formula every day.
    I guess what I am looking/hoping for is other ways to give this baby the best chance of not having me make her sick, and/or identifying much sooner that there is a problem so she doesn't have to suffer like my son did.
    In what way did your son suffer? I am not disbelieving that your child has this severe allergic reaction after he ate the butter but it sounds like you did suspect something was up before that (before solids) and eliminated dairy from your diet. Did that help?

    I guess I am thinking- many moms think their baby is reacting to something in their milk, when in fact all is normal. Of course once the severe allergy was confirmed, you look back and second guess all that happened before. But that is not confirmation that breastfeeding was the wrong choice...I mean, not to my mind. There are so many benefits to breastfeeding that the choice to not breastfeed carries more risks than we are probably even aware of yet.

    As far as knowing something is wrong earlier, how was your child's severe allergy confirmed? Are there tests you can do?

    I have no idea if this protocol will have the info you seek but it is written by doctors, for doctors, about the concern about allergens in breastmilk. In other words what is in there is probably pretty accurate: http://www.bfmed.org/Media/Files/Pro...ish_120211.pdf

  5. #5

    Default Re: Breastfeeding new baby after food allergies in firstborn

    It's mostly all in my head. The allergist is actually very supportive of breastfeeding as a way to obtain safe (or as safe as possible) exposure to common allergens via moms diet. It's more a case of knowing that it was something I did (consume dairy) which I could easily not have done, and saved my son some suffering. You are probably correct (and the allergist said the same thing) that what exposure he had via me may have offered some protective benefit. He actually recommended I breastfeed this next baby (with the one bottle of formula a day) to giver her the best chance of avoiding allergens. As I say, it's mostly my own head and mom-guilt that I am struggling with: I'm scared of causing my child to suffer again because of something in my own diet.

    My son was extremely fussy, and showed all the signs of tummy pain. He struggled so hard with pooping and gas, and was almost always explosive. His pediatrician kept telling me that it was normal for some babies, but I felt like it was more than normal. Eventually, on my own, I did an experiment with cutting out dairy from my own diet (since it's a pretty harmless and easy thing to try), and my son improved some, so I reintroduced some dairy, and the next day, he had blood in his diaper and was miserable again. After talking to his pediatrician, he confirmed a likely allergy (but there are no diagnostic tests at that age), so I completely cut out dairy for several months. I began tentatively reintroducing (to my own diet) it in small (and subsequently increasing) amounts when he was about 5 or 6 months, and he was tolerating it really well, which is why I let him try my toast leading to the severe reaction and testing and formal diagnosis. After that, the allergist actively encouraged me to continue introducing dairy via my breastmilk for as long as possible as a form of milk exposure therapy for my son, in the hopes of encouraging him to outgrow it, since he was tolerating it in my diet so well.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Breastfeeding new baby after food allergies in firstborn

    Well it sounds to me that you did everything you possibly could for your baby and every choice you made entirely rational and caring to your baby. Sometimes life just throws you a curve ball! I think sometimes we moms find it easier to blame ourselves for things that happen to our children, because at least that gives us the illusion of some control over the situation, and this is somehow more comfortable for us than accepting that sometimes stuff happens and we have no control. Having a child with a serious health issues is really, really difficult but it sounds like you have done and are doing everything you can and your child is getting through it all as well as can be expected.

    Just as an example of how hard these things are to read, my oldest son exhibited exactly the same symptoms as yours as a baby, and has no issues with dairy or any other food. He was diagnosed with reflux, but mostly I think I had OP, as I did with my next two, but just had no idea such a thing existed or what it might do to a baby.

    As far as the bottle of formula, maybe just get a little clarity on exactly when and how much (what amount of formula they think baby needs daily? "A bottle" could mean any amount, really.

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