Solids, breast milk post week 17 reduce allergies

December 10, 2013

Waiting to introduce solid foods until infants are at least 17 weeks of age and continuing breastfeeding after the introduction of solids reduces the likelihood that children will develop food allergies.

 

Waiting to introduce solid foods until infants are at least 17 weeks of age and continuing breastfeeding after the introduction of solids reduces the likelihood that children will develop food allergies.

It appears that 17 weeks is a crucial time point. Waiting until that age to introduce solid foods and continuing breast milk even after that age builds a stronger immune system to fight food allergy and promote tolerance, according to recent findings.

Researchers from the United Kingdom conducted a nested, case-control cohort study involving 41 infants diagnosed with food allergy by 2 years of age, as well as 82 age-matched controls.

After controlling for birth weight, duration of pregnancy, maternal allergies, and a host of other factors, they found that the infants with food allergies were much more likely to have had solid foods introduced prior to 16 weeks of age and were less likely to be receiving breast milk when cow’s milk was first introduced.

Although results of previous studies on the topic have been mixed, a strength of this research is that feeding information was collected prospectively from birth prior to any food allergies developing, so the likelihood of bias was low.

The study does not address whether or not an association exists between exclusive breastfeeding to 26 weeks of age (compared with 17 weeks) and allergy development because an insufficient number of women exclusively breastfed for that period of time. Although 95% of mothers in the study breastfed, the median duration of breastfeeding was 20 weeks and the median duration of exclusive breastfeeding was 8 weeks.

The findings of the current study are in agreement with the current allergy prevention and breastfeeding recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

 

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