AMUK Healthy Living Blog

Aug
03

Is Mother's Milk Best?

Author : Hazel Econs
Related Conditions : Asthma Symptoms & Treatment , Eczema Symptoms & Treatment , Babies and Children's problems

The opportunity breastfeeding offers to develop a close, intimate bond with the new little soul in your life is magical.   It also has benefits for mum, such as helping her to fit into her skinny jeans sooner, as it is said breastfeeding burns an average of 500 calories a day!

Some of the claimed health benefits are:

For mum:  Breast cancer among women who have breastfed for 4 to 12 months, is reduced by 11%.

Smart kids:  Breastfed babies have significantly higher IQ’s by 8 years old than non-breastfed babies.

Slimmer teenagers:  Breastfeeding has been tied with reducing the rate of childhood obesity.

Breastfeeding is nature’s way.  Medical authorities agree that breast milk is best because it provides all of the ingredients your baby needs for optimum health, growth and development.  A study published in the medical journal The Lancet in 1995, concluded that breastfeeding was preventative against atopic disease, including atopic eczema, food allergy and respiratory allergy, throughout childhood and adolescence.

So if this is the best diet for your baby, how come and some babies still suffer with sickness, colic, eczema, poor sleep or various other symptoms?

The explanation is quite simple, the chemistry of the breast milk is affected by the diet of the mother.  Although mum may not experience any symptoms of food intolerance herself, the ultra-sensitive immune system of her baby can be affected by food substances that it cannot handle and it causes reactions.  This is particularly likely to be the case if there is a history of allergies in the family, such as asthma, eczema and so on.

There could also be another reason, some airborne allergens such as dust mites, are often behind some types of severe atopic eczema, rhinitis or asthma, in other words, totally unrelated to breast milk.

So for the way forward, we recommend to (a) confirm with skin tests or blood tests that the problem is not caused by a straight forward allergy, i.e. egg white or milk protein or inhalants such as dust mites, and if not (b) through a carefully designed process, identify which foods are unsafe for the baby, if consumed by the mother.

Some babies do well with a modified diet when they are weaned, but others react to many common foods, making it very difficult to define a healthy, balanced and sustainable diet.  If this is the case, we recommend an extremely safe method of desensitisation.

The problem of food intolerances, and particularly milk intolerance, is a growing one in babies and children.  Interestingly, when Dr Econs was a General Practitioner, he frequently advised his mum’s of children who were suffering with ear, throat and chest infections and continually being unwell, to avoid all dairy products.  It was fascinating to confirm, with the statistics published by the local Health Authority at that time, how few referrals to the Paediatric Department were made from his Practice in comparison with other General Practices.  These children did not have to have numerous antibiotics, grommets and tonsillectomies, avoidance of dairies made such a difference to their health.

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