Am I Able to Reduce the Risk of Allergies for my Baby while I’m Pregnant and Breastfeeding?
Read time: 3 minutes
What should I know about eating allergens while pregnant and breastfeeding?
Eating a wide range of foods is important during pregnancy and breastfeeding
Restricting your diet while pregnant or breastfeeding is usually not recommended for the prevention of allergies
Learn other protective strategies against allergy development
While pregnant and breastfeeding, it’s important for you to consume a wide range of foods, including the major allergens, to expose your baby as early as possible. Genetic and environmental factors during early life play a key role in the training, programming, and maturation of the immune system.1 A well-trained immune system is better equipped to fight infections later in life and may potentially reduce the risk of allergies.
No convincing evidence exists that you should avoid or limit major food allergens during pregnancy or breastfeeding in order to reduce the risk of allergies in your baby.2 In fact, while not conclusive, there is some evidence that including allergens in your diet during pregnancy may help to possibly reduce the risk of your little one developing allergies to these foods later on.12
In addition, there may even be some foods that could be beneficial in helping affect the potential risk of allergies in general.
Read on to learn more about what factors may influence the risk of allergies in your baby.
Foods that may reduce allergy risk during pregnancy
While avoiding known allergens is not shown to reduce risk of allergies, newer research is suggesting that eating specific foods may help.
For example, a pregnancy diet higher in vegetables may have a protective effect against a child developing asthma, wheezing, and allergic rhinitis.3 The Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes vegetables, fruit, fish, legumes, nuts, unsaturated fats, and whole grains, may also impact the risk of allergies in children.4578
Conversely, eating greater amounts of meat, margarine, and junk food may increase the prevalence of wheezing in an infant.34
While many more studies are needed before we can truly know how prenatal eating patterns may impact our children’s allergies, many of these potentially protective foods are a healthy addition to your diet.
Breastfeeding and baby’s allergy risk
Several studies have indicated that exclusively breastfeeding for at least 3 to 4 months may help reduce the risk of atopic disease, asthma, wheezing, and eczema.289
While breastfeeding itself may be protective, there is currently not enough evidence to indicate that a breastfeeding mom’s diet may impact their baby’s risk for allergies.
Read about: Which Foods Should I Avoid while Breastfeeding?
Tips that may make an impact on your baby’s allergy development while pregnant and breastfeeding
Eat a wide variety of foods while you are pregnant and breastfeeding
Now is not the time to restrict allergenic foods (unless of course you yourself are allergic or intolerant), as no correlation has been shown between moms avoiding foods and allergies in their children.2 Plus, you need the full range of nutrients to grow a healthy baby and to help meet your own needs!
Which Nutrients Do I Need During Pregnancy?
What To Eat While Breastfeeding
Breastfeed if you’re able
A great step you can take to help impact your baby’s allergies is to breastfeed your little one exclusively for at least 3 to 4 months.289
The antibodies, nutrients, and various health-protecting substances found in breast milk help promote the development of a balanced intestinal flora, protect against infections, and boost your baby’s immune system (among many other benefits).1011
If you are not able to breastfeed exclusively, know that any amount of breastmilk may be beneficial for your baby.
Learn more: What are the Benefits of Breastmilk?
Get plenty of omega-3’s while you’re pregnant and breastfeeding
While more research is needed, there is the potential for omega-3 fatty acids and other unsaturated fats to modify your baby’s risk for allergies.413
Focus on foods like low-mercury oily fish (salmon and sardines), algae (seaweed and kelp), plant oils (canola and soybean), and nuts and seeds (especially walnuts, chia, and flax seeds).14
If you’re having a hard time incorporating these foods into your diet, check with your doctor about taking a supplement.
Avoid smoking and second-hand smoke
Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke may increase your baby’s risk for allergic diseases and food allergies.2
While you don’t have to stop breastfeeding if you are smoking, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists both recommend avoiding tobacco in any form during pregnancy and breastfeeding to help reduce the risks to your baby.1516
Introduce food allergens to your little one early
Research has found that we should not hold off on introducing food allergens to our babies, but rather include them in our infant’s diet once solids are introduced.2 This may help reduce the incidence of developing allergies.
When your little one is developmentally ready for solids, major allergens can be included alongside safe, already well-tolerated first foods, unless otherwise indicated by physician.
Always check in with baby’s health care provider before including food allergens in their diet.
Starting Solids: Signs of Readiness
Introducing Major Food Allergens to your Baby
We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.
Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitian nutritionists certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am - 6pm (ET).Chat Now!
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For more on this topic, check out the following articles:
Guidance when Raising a Child with Food Allergies
Tips for Staying Hyrated while Pregnant and BreastfeedingCan I have Caffeine while Pregnant and Breastfeeding?