Can totally breast fed babies develop severe allergy symptoms?
In a family with a history of allergy special care is needed to avoid allergens during pregnancy and also during the early development of the baby. Even babies who are totally breast fed can develop allergic reactions. Food allergens in the mother’s diet can appear in her breast milk within 2 to 6 hours. Even aeroallergens such as pollen allergens and house dust mite allergens that the mother is exposed to can appear in the breast milk. The allergens in the breast milk can sensitize the baby or provoke symptoms in babies who are already sensitized. Allergy symptoms can develop in predisposed infants continuously exposed to food allergens or aeroallergens in breast milk.
Previously, several allergy symptoms including regurgitation, vomiting, colic, diarrhoea, and eczema have been reported in breast feed infants. Elimination of the offending food allergens from the mother’s diet corrected the symptoms in the babies. In Malaysia we have found allergic skin reaction in exclusively breast fed infants. We tested the infant’s blood for specific IgE antibodies to common foods in the mother’s diet. We have found IgE-mediated response to cows milk, eggs, and wheat in different infants. In one infant with severe allergic disorder of skin the IgE antibody response in the baby was directed to many allergens in the mother’s diet. Thus parents need to be aware of the possibility of allergy symptoms developing in their infant via the breast milk particularly in families with a history of allergy. We recommend that special dietary precautions be taken during lactation for mothers of high-risk families.
In North Europe many parents with history of allergy plan their babies so that the later part of the pregnancy and early lactation falls outside spring and early summer when the air pollen counts are high to reduce exposure to pollen allergens.