Any breastfeeding benefits?

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Hello. I am new member. My son will be 1 year old next week, and I am still breastfeeding. Last week, we were in line at the bakery of a gourmet grocery store where there was a tray of samples of a peanut butter cookie. I took a taste and it was delicious. My son was getting fidgety in his stroller, so I decided to give him a taste of cookie. I briefly thought about peanuts being an allergen but then went ahead because he was practically one and this is the age I thought it is OK to start introducing. Within a few minutes of having this small piece of cookie, his eyes welted and swelled and he became irritable and was constantly rubbing them. I got him home and called pediatrician's office. Nurse said he did not need to come in if he was not having any trouble breathing, to give him benedryl, and that she would have Dr. call me. I gave the benedryl and he started seeming better. I put him in crib for a nap only to be summoned by screaming a short while later. I went and got him and he then vomited (we are now over 2 hours past ingestion of the cookie). The Dr. called me and instructed me to call an allergist to have him tested and in the meantime to be vigilant about what he eats. We could not get an appointment until July 26.

Since this happened, I have been reading about peanut allergies and am needless to say quite concerned. I am very upset to learn of reports that sensitization to the peanut protein can occur from breastfeeding. I like peanut butter and peanut butter products and eat them occasionally but I am not indulgent or eat it every day or anything like that.

I was planning to start weaning at age 1 but now wonder if there is any known benefit to continue breastfeeding my son (without ingesting any more peanut products obviously) in hopes that, in the event he does have an allergy or sensitivity to peanuts, he will have an improved chance of having less severe reactions or possibly overcoming if not exposed further for a long time. I have pretty much decided I should continue the breastfeeding until the allergist appointment.

Thanks for any thoughts or advice. I should note that there is not any history of food or any other type of allergies in either my or my husband's family. It is ironic to me that I made a 1 year commitment to breastfeeding to avoid such possible problems as allergies and now I am discovering that this could have contributed to a problem with peanuts. Anyway, I suppose there is a chance that he will not test positive but I am trying to get prepared in case. Wish I did not have to wait so long.

On Jun 3, 2001

Welcome Bryd! Your story sounds a lot like mine. One of the main reasons I breastfed my daughter was to protect her from allergies. I have some environmental allergies myself, and I thought I'd spare her from having to deal with them. Not only did she inherit my allergies to dust, cats and dogs, but also has the allergy to peanuts!

About 3 years ago, a friend told me that my 16 month old could have peanut butter. How I wish I hadn't listen to her! When my daughter reacted, I rushed her to the pediatrician's office. Ironically, a pediatric allergist was visiting and took a quick look at my daughter. Both doctors told me she was allergic to peanuts, and how serious an allergy it is. I was also told not to test her until she was 2 years old because results were not accurate before that age, and that I should keep her away from peanuts. So, I know how you feel having to wait for testing. We waited for almost a year by the time we got an appointment!

During that time, we assumed she was allergic to them. I read labels and mentioned the allergy at restaurants. But at that time I didn't know about this website, and I didn't know about the risks associated with cross comtaminated products, and how waitresses really don't know the seriousness of the allergy when you ask them if something has nuts in it. I guess we were lucky, because during that time she didn't have any reactions.

So when it finally came time to have her tested, you can imagine I was really hoping the reaction she had to the peanut butter was a fluke. I thought (and prayed) that she really wasn't allergic to peanuts. Unforunately, she was. And when the doctor said it was because I ate PB while nursing, I was almost in tears feeling guilty! I was already feeling guilty that I had given she PB at too early an age and maybe that was why she was allergic to peanuts.

I read somewhere in these discussion boards about the question of breasfeeding causing peanut allergies. Well, one mother wrote that she did not like peanuts, did not eat it, nursed her child, and the child was PA. Right then, I felt so much better! I have also read about kids who have their first taste of peanuts at older ages, like 2 or 3 who are allergic, so I don't think it necessarily matters that we gave our children PB too young.

I am getting long winded here, and I haven't even answered your question! Even though I had to stay away from peanuts while nursing, I continued to breastfeed until my daughter was two and a half. (I only thought I would do it a year, too!) I do think she benefitted from the extended breastfeeding. There is the nutritional value, as well as the closeness. My daughter also developed reactive airways (similar to asthma) and was hopsitalized twice, and I think breasfeeding her during those times helped reassure her. She has only had one ear infection in her life, and even now that she is in preschool, is a pretty healthy child. Also, I have read that breastfeeding increases the child's IQ, and my daughter is very smart. She talked early, learned her ABC by 18 months, she was reading at 3 and a half years, and now at four is spelling words!

There are benefits to you for breasfeeding, too! Like extended breastfeeding reduces your risk of breast cancer.

I hope this has helped. I know where you are coming from, and you are lucky to have found this website so early in your child's life. If your child is allergic, you will find great information and support here! I also find hope here, like hearing stories of kids who actually do outgrow the allergy, and links to articles about research for a cure. Good luck, and let us know how your appointment goes next month.

On Jun 3, 2001

There are so many benefits to breastfeeding your child. Please do not stop!

My 16 month old son has pa too and is still breastfed. I plan to continue until he decides to stop. From what I hear from other moms on this site, pa children have it rough enough. Long-term breastfed children tend to be more healthy and secure than children who were weaned early or not bf at all, so I want to help him all I can to counteract the effects of pa.

It is a sacrifice. You will need to stop eating peanuts for as long as you are nursing. Plus, not weaning means you have less freedom. Fortunately the nursing bond tends to make you want to be near your nursling constantly anyway!

Also, my sister (veteran mother of three) says it is much easier to parent a nursing toddler. Sometimes it is the only thing that will soothe a screaming, overtired, out of control two year old.

Good luck to you and your child!

------------------ Amy

On Jun 4, 2001

hello, l agree with the above posts, l have four children all were breastfed from birth to 2 yrs, only one of my children has allergys , and l have never been a great nut eater.l fed my allergic child until he was 18 months,his ezcema did improve when l weaned him, but at that time l was not as clued up on allergys as l am now. my son never gained weight quickly and didnt sleep well, but at least with my breastfeeding him ,it gave him comfort in a uncomfortable world. Breastfeeding him also, l hoped protected him from infections ,as he did seem to be more prone to illness than his robust brothers. At times it was the only thing that stopped him crying. carry on for as long as you and your child want to ! bye sarah

On Jun 4, 2001

I don't think they really know how to advise parents at this point. I too have heard the "sensitization" thing from peanuts. On the other hand, some doctors feel that exposing the child to allergens through breastmilk so they can "practice" is actually beneficial.

There's something else going on here than exposure to breast milk allergens. After all, the spike in food allergies is specific to this generation and to industrialized cultures. I've actually wondered if it might be because our MOTHERS didn't breastfeed. Your genes can't change fast enough to protect you from new food proteins, so the body uses other ways such as the immune protection passed through breastmilk. If we only got the info in utero and not through breastmilk as babies, allergies would show up in our children.

Anyway, the bottom line is that you have to let yourself off the guilt train. I have two children - one has severe allergies and one has none. My son breastfed for 3 YEARS! (He was allergic to milk, soy, peanut, and several other things, so breastmilk was an important dietary supplement.) Like you, I was ready to quit at 6 months and was shocked when we discovered his allergies while introducing formula. As a consequence, I've become an advocate for the benefits of breastfeeding. However, just because there are benefits to breastfeeding doesn't mean you have to continue if you don't want to.

With regard to "does it work", I can't tell you. On one hand, my son's allergies seem to be less severe than they might be without the nursing. He tests a 3 (on a 1-5 scale) for most things on a CAP-RAST, which doesn't mean that he can't have a severe reaction, but does mean that it takes more of an allergen to set him off. On the other hand, he's allergic at six to several common things like milk and soy that many children outgrow. I've wondered if the extended nursing actually lengthened his allergies since I did not avoid milk in my diet.

I think you just have to make the best lifestyle decision for you and disregard the research. There is research on both sides of the fence, and no one really knows. You've given your son a good start by sticking with it a year - if it helps any, it gets much easier after this point because they really start transitioning to solids and only nurse occasionally. I do know that breastmilk actually contains more antibodies in year #2 than in year #1. Perhaps my son's allergies are less severe because of the extended nursing.

Whatever you decide, good luck and try not to worry. Peanut allergy is manageable and they're coming out with new research every day, so hopefully they'll have a solution by the time our kids are older.

[This message has been edited by booandbrimom (edited June 04, 2001).]

On Jun 4, 2001

I have four children as well. I breastfed the first three boys, but only for approximately three months. I had too many difficulties, but I wanted to give them the best start in life. My last baby who is seven months has been totally formula fed.

My oldest boy has very mild environmental allergies. He has never had asthma and is not allergic to any foods. Environmental allergies run in his father's family.

My second oldest has severe chronic asthma, food allergies, peanuts, tree nuts, seafood and more. He is beginning to show some environmental allergies as well.

My four year old. Had RSV when he was an infant and seemed to get wheezy with chest colds. Very healthy.

My baby girl was a month premature. She is extremely healthy. She has even had bad colds which have turned to her chest.

I ate peanut butter everyday while I was pregnant and breastfeeding with my first 2 boys. I also ate peanut buster parfaits quite often. I didn't realise the consequences. However, my oldest son does not have these allergies. Realising this helped me to get over my guilt. I thought I was responsible for Sidney's food allergies. I was not told that I could bring these allergies on by eating these foods. I felt guilty for not breastfeeding my fourth but she is extremely happy, content and healthy. I have decided to let go of the guilt and just enjoy all of them. I have not touched a peanut or a nut product since my son was diagnosed. I would feel like I was eating poison.

On Jun 4, 2001

There are numerous benefits to extended breastfeeding. I don't think the reasearch is clear enough w.r.t. to peanut allergy to make PA the basis for weaning or not weaning.

I think you should breastfeed as long as you can, as the benefits of extended breastfeeding are numerous and not necessarily related to allergies. Just cut out the peanuts until your child weans.

Don't beat yourself up about the "exposure through breastfeeding" or "exposure in utero". Most people eat peanuts while pregnant or nursing and most children are not effected by it.

On Jun 4, 2001

I am STILL nursing my 2 year old! My first, who I was only able to nurse about 8 days, is the one with the pa. I actually read this morning about a study done in the uk that failed to find the link between eating peanuts while pregnant or while nursing to the increase in pa. Instead, they DID find a link between various creams/lotions that were used to treat childhood ezcema and pa!! SO you see, no one really knows for sure about the causes for the increase in PA BUT there are many studies showing the benefits of breastfeeding.

On Jun 4, 2001

also, if you are worried, just give up eating peanuts/peanut products while you nurse! I have (just in case LOL) Also, there are benefits to nursing over 1 year, in addition to giving your child nutrients, there have been studies done that indicate breastfeeding over 2 years may reduce the risk for the mothers of breast cancer by 50%!! That is a benefit for the whole family actually!

On Jun 4, 2001

My situation is almost exactly the same as Williamsmummy. Four kids, one PA, and I have never been a big nut or peanut eater. All my kids were breastfed for two years with the exception of the the first child who weaned herself at 15 mos. My third child is PA, and my second, third, and fourth were exclusively breastfed for 5-6 months before solids were introduced. Hindsight is always 20/20. I wish I would have avoided peanuts during pregnancy and breastfeeding, but I didn't know about food allergies. However, if I did consume them, it wasn't very much. My point is this: don't stop breastfeeding and avoid peanuts like the plague! Breastfeeding provides so many benefits for the child and is an easy source of comfort. Who knows--maybe the immune boost from long-term breastfeeding will make your child one of the 20% of the affected PA population which will outgrow it. You never know.

On Jun 26, 2001

This article is very interesting. I subscribe to Dr. Koop's newsletter, and read this today. My 6 year old son is PA, and I ate Reeses Peanut Butter Cups daily, and spoonfuls of PB while pregnant and nursing, and I nursed him for 10 months.

[url="http://www.drkoop.com/dyncon/article.asp?id=9385"]www.drkoop.com/dyncon/article.asp?id=9385[/url]

[This message has been edited by Katherine (edited June 27, 2001).]

On Jun 27, 2001

We have two children, one breastfed for 9 months (no food allergies) and the other for 15 months (tree nut, dairy, egg allergies) and he is now almost 3.

A study has been done (I will have to find the reference) which has shown that breastfeeding is the best for all children BUT...if a child is at risk for food allergies, then strict avoidance of food allergens from the mother's diet can reduce the risk of developing food allergies in half compared to a breast feeding mother who does not avoid food allergens. This information was given out at the Baltimore FAAN meeting by Dr Robert Wood at Johns Hopkins. The strict avoidance by mom during breast feeding resulted in a lower incidence of food allergies in the infant than if the infant was fed formula.

IF ONLY I HAD KNOWN, I have been so disappointed with the physicians I have come into contact with (sorry to say!). Our son had infantile eczema (and 40% of children with eczema--atopic dermatitis----have food allergies). So.....the pediatrician(s), the dermatologist, even one of the top pediatric dermatologists in the country, NEVER mentioned that the little hives in his patches of eczema while being breastfed could be related to food allergies. Not one mentioned food allergies, avoidance in mom's diet while breastfeeding or anything.

Disgusted.

On Jun 27, 2001

I never ate peanuts when I was pregnant (I had heard on 20/20 that it may cause peanut allergies) and I never ate peanuts when I breastfed. My son scored a high V on his RAST test for peanuts and also tested allergic to several tree nuts. When I was in the hospital after the birth of my son, they gave me Tons of literature on breastfeeding. The one point they kept ramming down my throat was that it would help prevent allergies. To this day I feel so cheated! Unfounded, I know, but I'm still upset. I'm glad you've decided to continue breastfeeding. I don't know if it will help your son minimize his sensitivity to peanuts, but is surely can't hurt. Oh, and you may want to consider abstaining from tree nuts also-cashews, walnuts, pecans, etc. and foods that may contain them. Tree nut allergies are often as severe as peanut allergies.

Good luck and keep us posted.

Jennifer

On Jun 28, 2001

I wanted to comment as well. I believe that breastfeeding has great benfits, and breatfeed both my children. I believe that my son was geneticall pre=disposed to PA, His father was diagnosed with PA 2 years before my son's birth. I ate PB alot I had no idea it would contribute to his becoming PA. I believe he would have PA despite my breastfeeding. So, please don't feel quilty, We have too many other things to worry about. Be careful what you give your child, my pedician believe reactions get progrssivly worse. Read ingrediants for yourself and him. There is alot of support here. The book "Caring for a Child With Severe Food Allergies", is excellent.

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