Infant Allergies: How Breastfeeding Can Help

What’s the link between breastfeeding and infant allergies? Should breastfeeding mothers eat allergenic foods? Here’s what you need to know.

How Breastfeeding Can Help Infant Allergies post by Mama Natural

Is there anything breastmilk can’t do?!

Breastmilk provides nourishment and comfort to babies, but the benefits of breastfeeding don’t stop there. Researchers say breastfeeding can also help minimize infant allergies.

In this article we’ll cover exactly how breastfeeding can help with infant allergies, including:

  • The link between breastfeeding and allergies
  • How formula fits into the equation
  • Plus, the new guidelines for allergen introduction

How Breastfeeding Can Help Prevent Infant Allergies

Fun fact: Your breastmilk takes on the flavors of the foods you eat, from curry to licorice to garlic. (source)

But breastmilk doesn’t just taste like the foods you consume—the specific foods you consume can help protect your nursing baby against food allergies. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, babies who were exclusively breastfed were 54 percent less likely to develop eczema and allergies during their teen years. (source)

This is a big revelation, but let’s back up just a bit.

The old guidelines

In the past, experts told nursing mothers to avoid highly allergenic foods (such as peanut butter) during pregnancy. They thought consuming an allergenic food would expose baby to the allergen, increasing baby’s risk of developing allergies later in life.

What current research says

However, the most current research illustrates that this just isn’t the case. There is no known link between maternal exclusion diets (i.e. abstaining from highly allergenic foods) and the prevention of infant allergies. (source)

In fact, it’s quite the opposite: A mother who consumes allergenic foods may actually help protect her newborn from infant allergies. A 2017 study, published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, revealed that breastmilk from nursing mice (who ate egg) protected baby mice from developing egg allergies. It appears that the mother’s body passes the right antibodies to baby through her milk. (source)

The new guidelines

Given this information, the AAP, AAAI, and NIH have all included addenda to their official guidelines stating early introduction provides your baby with the ability to create antibodies that prevent infant allergies, instead of triggering immune responses in the presence of egg, nut, or dairy proteins.

While breastfeeding is a great first step, there are also new programs, like Ready, Set, Food!, specifically designed to facilitate early allergy introduction safely. (More on that below.)

How to Follow the New Guidelines

Even if you exclusively breastfeed, you’ll still need to introduce allergens to baby directly at some point—this generally happens around six months, when baby is ready to eat solids.

There is no need to delay the introduction of common allergens, like peanuts or eggs. In fact, you shouldn’t delay the introduction of allergenic foods.

But will early introduction affect your breastfeeding relationship?

According to the UK-based LEAP study, lactation consultants promote both breastfeeding and early allergen introduction. Additionally, one of the key findings from the EAT study established that early allergen introduction did not negatively impact breastfeeding practices. Instead, early introduction works with breastfeeding to prevent infant allergies. 

Remember: Food before one is just for fun. Baby will still get most of his/her nutrients from your breast milk.

Are there programs that can help?

Programs like Ready, Set, Food! can help all parents, whether breast- or formula-feeding, safely and effectively introduce the top three allergens (cow’s milk, peanuts, and eggs) to babies.

I love this program because it takes the confusion out of the process. Rather than introduce a solid egg or peanut butter to a baby who is just beginning to eat solids, you simply mix pre-measured powder into baby’s bottle (breast milk or formula).

Mamas who exclusively breastfeed (and want to continue to do so) may find this program particularly appealing, because they can continue to exclusively breastfeed—no solid foods are introduced.

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What About Formula? Can It Help Prevent Infant Allergies?

Some studies show that certain types of formula, specifically partially hydrolyzed formulas, may help prevent eczema in babies. (source) Since babies with eczema are more likely to develop infant allergies, it’s possible there could be a link. (source)

Note: If you suspect your baby is at risk for developing infant allergies (due to family history or severe eczema), you might consider using donor milk. In the study discussed above, even the baby mice fed breastmilk from a donor mother mouse were less likely to develop infant allergies. It would make sense that these benefits would translate to human babies, too. (source)

Genevieve Howland

About the Author

Genevieve Howland is a childbirth educator and breastfeeding advocate. She is the bestselling author of The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth and creator of the Mama Natural Birth Course. A mother of three, graduate of the University of Colorado, and YouTuber with over 130,000,000 views, she helps mothers and moms-to-be lead healthier and more natural lives.


  1. My baby is 16 weeks old and has been having bloody poops for about 8 weeks now – no other real symptoms except normal baby crying and some napping protests. I have been off dairy for 6 weeks and soy for 2 with no sign of dramatic improvements. My pediatrician and pediatric gastroenterologist do not seem concerned. She is gaining weight and seems relatively content (this is my first baby so I have NO IDEA how that is defined). They are suggesting that I either stay the course with breastfeeding or try one of the hypoallergenic formulas on the market (which both contain soy and milk!) and corn syrup! My instinct is that if they are not alarmed I should just be okay with the occasional spots of blood in diapers and continue with breast feeding and not eating dairy and soy. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    • Hi Megan; We have the same exact situation. It started around 2 1/2 months and happens once a week to twice a month. She seems to be fussy and doesn’t want to eat as much the day before/ during it happening. It also always comes on the 2nd or 3rd diaper in the same day when normally she is a once a day gal. She is 18 wks now. I have tried eliminating all kinds of things and am starting to suspect it is a compound thing like when I have something irritating for dinner and then leftovers again the next day. Do you eat vital wheat gluten or alternative meat sources? I have that on my suspect list. A friend of mine who has 2 had the same issue with her 2nd who is a girl too. She said the baby outgrew it once she started eating food and her diapers were less liquid based. Let me know if you figure anything out and I will update here too!

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