For many Americans, the decision to breastfeed your baby beyond 12 months of age is not as widely accepted as it is in other parts of the world. However, scientific evidence suggests that breast milk has significant benefits for your baby beyond the first year of life and the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding your baby (with or without food allergies) until at least the age of two.
When you are breastfeeding a baby that is diagnosed with food allergies, the added stress of changing your own diet to accommodate your baby’s allergies may cause you to consider weaning from the breast. However, if your baby has food allergies, especially if there is a possibility of more allergies surfacing, your baby needs your breast milk more than ever before.
Until the age of 2, approximately 50% of your baby’s calories should be in the form of fat. Some of the most easily found sources of fat for babies and toddlers, such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and peanut butter are most likely on your avoid list. A healthy supply of frequent breast milk can help provide the fat your child is lacking.
Anytime you restrict a person’s diet, you run the risk of losing the nutritional balance that occurs naturally from eating a variety of foods. As your child’s diet is restricted, essential nutrients found in breast milk can help ensure your child is getting a proper balance of nutrients.
The newer you are to food allergies, the more likely you are to have “sick” days, where your child is sick from either a food you or your baby has eaten. Passing your baby your own antibodies through breast milk can help prevent your baby from picking up contagious illnesses going around that would have resulted in even more sick days.
4. Compassion and Diet Discovery
If you are restricted to the same diet as your breastfeeding baby, you’re naturally going to be more motivated to search out satisfying, nutritional foods that you, and in turn your baby, can eat. When your child is eventually weaned from nursing, you’ll look back to those days of breastfeeding and know first hand what meals and snacks are truly sustainable options.
Especially during the early stages of introducing new foods, your baby will be watching to see what other people are eating before he tries what is placed in front of him. Having someone model his eating for him will encourage him to be more willing to try new things. As his breastfeeding mother who is restricted to his diet, you will naturally become that model for him.
With food allergies, being on the go is not easy. Restaurant choices are extremely limited, and there may not always be a restaurant conveniently located when you need it. Especially with how often these little ones need to eat. Your breast milk is always with you wherever you go!
Even if you’re not the type that likes to use breast milk to comfort your little one, you may find that during some of those late nights in the beginning stages of food allergy discovery, offering breast milk to comfort your child while waiting for the symptoms to pass is the only form of distraction your exhausted self can offer. There’s peace of mind having that option, whether you chose to use it or not.
Are you and your baby new to food allergies? Click here to find more valuable resources and advice from Allergy Cookie.
Photo credit: Daniel Lobo