Allergy UK know that being a parent isn’t easy at the best of times, so when you add a poorly baby with suspected allergy into the mix, we understand that family life can become complex and emotionally challenging. Conflicting advice is also often given through various channels, creating a lot of additional confusion and anxiety.
Allergy UK supports parents with information about childhood allergies, starting school, eating out, food labelling and travelling with a child with an allergy. We understand the stress that parents experience in caring for a child with a food allergy and we provide support through our Helpline and clinical team, developing resources that can help.
Can I prevent my baby from developing food allergies whilst pregnant?
There is a lot of conflicting information around what advice to follow when trying to prevent your baby from developing allergies, even before they are born. The latest advice for expectant mums to follow when pregnant is:
Avoiding foods: Unless you are allergic to any particular food there is no need to avoid any foods (ie, peanut, fish etc) as this has not been shown to prevent allergy.
Oily fish: Omega-3-fatty acids (found in oily fish such as salmon, trout and mackerel may help reduce the risk of eczema and allergic sensitisation (development of allergy antibodies) in early life. Try to include some of these in your diet but remember that pregnant women should not eat more than two portions of oily fish a week.
Probiotics: There is not enough evidence to recommend that routine probiotics prevent food allergy.
Supplements: General health advice is to take folic acid and vitamin D supplements during pregnancy.
Your diet: There is no evidence that any particular diets or foods can prevent allergy either when pregnant or when weaning your baby. Advice is therefore to eat a healthy well balanced diet including plenty of vegetables and fruit to provide vitamins and minerals as well as fibre.
Can I prevent my newborn from developing food allergies?
It is recommended that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, however this is not always possible as some mum’s find this too difficult (eg when baby has ‘tongue tie’ etc) and others choose not to. Many settle for a combined approach to feed their infants, that suits both mother and baby. However you choose to feed your baby it is important to understand the following information with regards to allergy. Breastfeeding is most important in the first days of life as research is showing that early exposure to cow’s milk may be associated with a higher risk of cow’s milk allergy. How you choose to feed your newborn baby/infant is absolutely your decision, but make it relaxed and enjoyable for both of you.
Breast feeding: The World Health Organisation and all UK Health Departments recommend exclusive breast feeding for around the first six months of life. Breast feeding alone does not prevent allergies, but has many other important benefits to the mother and child. Breastfeeding should continue throughout the first year of life. Don’t avoid eating any particular foods (such as peanut or dairy) while breastfeeding as it has not been shown to prevent allergies.
Formula feeding: Infant formula is the only suitable alternative to breast milk when your baby is under 12 months of age. Infant formulas made from cow’s and goat’s milk are suitable, however soya based infant formula should not be used unless prescribed/recommended by a healthcare professional.
Hypoallergic formula: If your baby is formula fed and is diagnosed with a cow’s milk allergy a non-cow’s milk-based formula (eg soya) or a specialist “low allergy” or hypoallergenic formula will be recommended by a healthcare professional. However, please note that none of these alternatives have consistently been shown to prevent food allergy or other allergic disease.