Breastfeeding an allergic kid

19 Nov

Amongst the worst experiences that my friends and I have had with GPs and Pediatricians have been about breastfeeding.  Whether your kid has allergies or not, you are quite likely to have your GP or pediatrician make some comment about the appropriateness of breastfeeding your kid when they are over 6 months old.

Its an irony that midwives, on the whole, spend so much time to encourage you to breastfeed – and quote the WHO guidelines that encourage breastfeeding for at least  6 months exclusively and then, combined with other foods for 2 years and beyond – only for GPs etc to look at you like you’re a bit weird if you’re breastfeeding your one or two year old (check out this blogger’s take on just such a situation).

So…in this context, it is not surprising that almost all of my friends who have seen a pediatric allergist have been advised to stop breastfeeding pretty much immediately.  We were blessed that the first pediatric allergist we ever saw was the absolutely amazing Dr Du Toit who didn’t even attempt to dissuade me from breastfeeding (perhaps because I was so unequivocal about intending to continue whatever the circumstances).   Bare in mind that my boy Adam tested positive for 5 different foods at that initial appointment and his symptoms included vomiting throughout the day, diarrhea, very severe eczema and he couldn’t sleep for more than half an hour without waking up screaming (presumably from the pain)…so if there was going to be a case for stopping breastfeeding we would have been strongly advised to do so.

The fact is that allergens do pass through breastmilk.  And at the time, at 9 months old, Adam was breastfeeding every hour, 24 hours a day.  He had never wanted to eat ‘solids’ apart from a suck on a cucumber here or there (unsurprising given his projectile vomiting when he licked a sandwich!).  But also, they pass out of the breastmilk after about 48 hours.  So, if you suddenly stopped eating dairy (if your kid was diagnosed with an allergy to dairy), your milk would be clear of that allergen pretty darned fast.  And you would retain the incredibly beautiful, crucial breastfeeding relationship.

Suddenly stopping breastfeeding doesn’t make sense.  Not only does it increase the risk of mastitis for the mother and is upsetting for baby, it doesn’t in any way help resolve the allergy issue!  The main reason given for the advice to stop nursing is that the mother so desperately needs dairy (most allergic kids have a dairy allergy) that she can’t stop eating it herself.  This is a fallacy.  Dairy is not at all essential to our diets and calcium can easily be absorbed from other more nutritious sources.  But the dairy lobby has been so incredibly powerful that questioning the essentialness of dairy is a taboo.

Our breastfeeding relationship kept my boy on the 91% weight percentile throughout his babyhood and he is still on that percentile at 29months, thank God (I hope to wean him fully by 30 months old).  I believe that breastfeeding allowed me to keep up his nutrients through all the hard days, particularly when he was just diagnosed, and I had no clue what to feed him.  It also took the pressure off me trying to set up a new, safe diet quickly.

What experiences have you had with regards to breastfeeding and your child being diagnosed with allergies?  Have you had supportive doctors?  Have you struggled to switch to your child’s new diet (as a result of continuing breastfeeding)?


(I’ll be updating this post as I remember other relevant bits to add to it)




3 Responses to “Breastfeeding an allergic kid”

  1. realocalcooking November 19, 2011 at 9:24 pm #

    Very interesting post…thanks for sharing!

  2. allergickids November 20, 2011 at 7:48 pm #

    Thanks for your comment realocalcooking! It also seems like I’ll be looking at your blog quite often from now on as we’re about to get an allotment and start growing our own local food! I’m also just writing a post about how my boy’s allergies mean that by necessity our diet has shifted to a more wholesome, organic ‘real food’ diet.

  3. Madison May 7, 2012 at 6:38 am #

    Oh, I likey this post! I breastfed my son and let him self wean. He finally decided he was done with it all when he was four and a half years old. To be honest I’ve never experienced any negative reactions to my breastfeeding from medical professionals. In fact our son’s pediatrician positively celebrated the fact that I was still breastfeeding.

    I think you’re right in that your breast milk is giving your son vital nutrients that he is not getting from solid food.

    I’m cheering for you!

    Madison xxx

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