Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

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Title: Breast Feeding and Allergies

Category: Child Care


Breastfeeding has become more popular in the last fifteen years in our society. This is extremely fortunate for many, many reasons. First of all, because it is the perfect food for a new baby and helps to insure good health, prevent infections and decrease allergies. Second of all, because it is a natural and beautiful way for a mother to feed her growing child. In the 50's and 60's it was felt that high technology could replace and improve on nature by creating wonderful baby formulas. The companies have done a super job; however, they can not and never will be able to compete with mother nature. Breast milk will always be the best food for a growing new baby, the safest food, the one associated with least feeding problems and the one with all the other great advantages. What are all these great advantages? As mentioned above, decreased infections is one of the first advantages which is so important in a newborn infant who is susceptible to his environment, particularly infections.

Second, some of the components in breast milk which protect the baby from infection include a large number of white blood cells. Both neutrophils and macrophages, a large number of antibodies (particularly secretory I G Immunoglobulin A) several other anti-infective proteins, including lactoglobulin, lactoferrin and other components have all been proven to be anti-infective. There are probably a hundred other components which we have not even discovered which God put in breast milk to help protect new growing babies.

Finally, prevention of allergies is a reason to consider breastfeeding. Several studies in the past ten years have suggested that allergy-prone children will have a later onset of allergy symptoms such as asthma and hayfever, eczema, and even secondary ear infections if they are breast fed compared to matched controls who are formula fed. There have been very extensive and exhaustive studies done in Sweden and Finland involving as many as ten thousand babies which convinced me that this is the case. I also see this on a daily basis in practice and am a firm believer in breast feeding as a preventer and delayer of allergy problems. For all of these reasons, I believe mothers should strongly consider and be encouraged to breast feed by their OB, pediatrician, family doctor, family and friends. There is no LaLeche League in Opelousas but the Lafayette league offers support. They can be reached through either hospital nursery or any pediatrician in the area.