The study compared the feeding habits of 41 babies diagnosed with food allergies by their 2nd birthday with the eating habits of 82 infants of the same age who had no known allergies. The babies who had food allergies were started on solid foods earlier (before 17 weeks) and were less likely to be breastfeeding at the time cows milk protein was introduced. Philly.com reports that the researchers theorized that, since we already know breast milk contains immunological factors, breast milk can actually educate the body about solid foods if they are present in the baby simultaneously.
While the link between breastfeeding and food allergies remains unclear, this study does offer new insight that the age a baby begins solids may affect their likelihood of developing food allergies. Starting solids after 16 weeks of age seems to make a real difference, according to this study!
These results are interesting, but they aren't going to influence my decision on when to start solids or how long to nurse my third baby. I waited until both my other babies were 6 months old to start solids, and I nursed them both well into toddlerhood. So I did everything this study suggests a mother should do to prevent allergies and one of my kids has none and the other child has several. I still can't wrap my brain around it. They both had the same mom, were exclusively breastfed, and ate a similar diet for their first months on solids. So for us, at least, neither delaying solids nor breastfeeding made any difference. I know studies like this can help parents make informed decisions, but I personally feel like the findings of this study are bunk. I know in my gut that my baby was born with allergies to nuts and milk … no amount of breastfeeding or change in solids would have altered that.
I really hope that these researchers continue their important work because I would *love* to learn why some kids get these allergies and some don't!
- By Claire Goss
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