Breastfeeding a baby with eczema presents a unique challenge when it comes to food. When a baby is teething, or experiencing an allergy, breastfeeding can make these conditions worse.
When breastmilk is exposed to the skin, it can cause an itchy reaction.
This is how you can cause your baby to become red and raw.
Is There a Link Between Breast Milk and Eczema?
I wanted to take this time to speak to the connection between mom and child and how to address breastfeeding and eczema. There a couple of underlying factors in pediatrics that can cause baby eczema.
First off, the organs in a baby are not fully formed and are more delicate in their first months and years of life. The physiological and physical constituents of children are still weak and immature; thus, they are more prone to express their toxicity more quickly, such as through the skin as eczema.
In addition, during the first years of life, a child receives energy and sustenance from its parents, especially the mother who can supply breast milk for their growth and development.
When treating young children and babies, it’s important to always consider the mother and child as a unit, dependent on the other.
Treat the mother, and thereby treat the child. Often times, there is a history of eczema, psoriasis, asthma or other inflammatory condition in either parent that passes to the child.
In addition to hereditary predisposition, the health of the mom, which can be determined from her diet, lifestyle, and emotional stress, can transfer to the baby. Here is where the interesting connection between breast milk and baby eczema lies.
Through a full evaluation of the breastfeeding mother’s own health such as their past medical history, food allergies, digestive and immune health, and diet, we can improve her health and through her breast milk, affect her baby’s health.
Breastfeeding has proven in medical studies to reduce the occurrence of asthma and atopic dermatitis in children later.
However, it’s important that the breast milk is agreeable, and the baby doesn’t have a breast milk allergy, in order for the baby’s own immune and digestive system to assimilate nutrients well and provide optimal growth, development and eczema-free living.
Recommendations from Dr. Duong’s:
- Treating the mom’s health (proper diet, sleep, and stamina).
- Ensuring allergen-free breast milk helps the baby thrive without the typical symptoms of eczema – rash, itchiness, irritability, and difficulty sleeping.
- Eliminate food allergies for mom and baby, most notable are dairy, gluten and eggs.
- Address yeast overgrowth properly, strengthen the liver’s detoxification pathways.
- Soothe the skin topically with a natural eczema treatment for babies.
Foods to Avoid While Nursing an Eczema Baby
Dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt and cream are some of the most common allergenic foods for new babies. Karen Zeretzke says in New Beginnings magazine that cow’s milk has more than 20 potential allergens present in the milk.
For some babies, the proteins in the cow’s milk are not easily digested and are recognized by the baby’s digestive tract as allergic substances. Eczema is sometimes the allergic response to the cow’s milk proteins.
Babies who have an allergic reaction to dairy products that results in eczema may also be allergic to soy.
A large percentage of babies who have an allergy to cow’s milk proteins will also be allergic to the proteins found in soy. Many foods have soy included in the ingredients, so avoiding soy while breastfeeding will require careful monitoring of nutrition labels.
Wheat and Corn
Wheat and corn are two foods that some babies are allergic to.
These two items are more difficult to remove from the diet because they are in nearly every packaged food in some form. Eliminating wheat, corn or any food suspected as a food allergy from your diet for a period of at least two weeks will help you discover whether the food was causing the allergy. If your child’s eczema begins to clear up during that time, you know the food was most likely to blame.
Eggs and Peanuts
Eggs and peanuts are two foods that are known to elicit highly allergic responses in some people. It is possible that proteins from these foods may pass through your breast milk and cause eczema in your baby, especially if there is a family history of allergies to eggs and peanuts in your family.
Food additives such as preservatives, artificial colors and artificial flavorings may cause an allergic reaction in some babies when passed through the breast milk. Similarly, foods that are treated highly with pesticides and other chemicals may cause such a reaction.
Any food that is identified as allergy-causing in the baby will need to be eliminated from the diet until either the baby is weaned or until the baby outgrows the allergy. Consult with your pediatrician for advice and allergy testing if needed to determine the cause of your baby’s eczema.
Eczema and Your Baby’s Diet
When your baby has eczema, you may wonder if that itchy rash is related to your feeding style. Is breastfeeding to blame? Or is it the solid foods you just introduced?
Some simple tips can help you get your baby off to a healthy start.
Breast Milk or Formula?
Breast milk is always best. It gives your little one the perfect balance of fat, protein, and other nutrients. It’s also good for your baby’s growing immune system.
“Breastfed infants will get some of the mom’s immune system, so it actually helps boost their immunity,” says Cindy Gellner, MD, a pediatrician at the University of Utah Community Clinics.
Breastfeeding also helps make the immune system less sensitive. That’s important for eczema, which is triggered by overactive defenses.
Can a Breastfeeding Mom’s Diet Affect Their Baby’s Eczema?
Certain foods in a mom’s diet could cause problems for their baby with eczema. If you’re breastfeeding, you may want to avoid common triggers like:
- Cow’s milk
- Tree nuts
Signs that your baby is having a reaction to something you ate include an itchy red rash on the chest and cheeks, and hives. If you see these, stay away from whatever you think may be causing the problem for a couple of weeks.
If things get better, brings foods back one at a time, says Robert Roberts, MD, PhD, a professor of pediatrics at UCLA.
Get some help from your doctor so you’ll know when it’s safe to start eating those foods again.
Which Formula Is Best for Bottle-Feeding?
“All babies will start off on milk-based formula,” Gellner says. “If the baby has a lot of eczema and it’s really problematic, then we’ll try switching them to a formula made with hydrolyzed proteins.”
Hydrolyzed means that the milk proteins are already broken down, so they’re less likely to trigger an allergic reaction.
When Should You Introduce Solid Foods?
Experts say you can start your baby on solids between 4 and 6 months old. Ask your pediatrician what age is best for your child.
Which Foods Should You Give Your Baby First?
Many parents start their babies with iron-fortified rice or oatmeal cereals, and then graduate them to fruits and vegetables. Still, it’s perfectly fine to start your kid on stage 1 fruits and vegetables or puree a veggie or fruit yourself.
“The biggest issue for parents of children with eczema is they need to introduce one food at a time so they can know what is causing a problem,” says Chris Adigun, MD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the New York University School of Medicine. “Stick with that food for at least 4 or 5 days before you move on to the next food.”
After each new one, watch out for signs of an allergy, like:
- Diarrhea, sometimes with blood
- Swelling of the lips or tongue
If you see any of these, call your child’s doctor.
When Can Your Child Start on Cow’s Milk?
Around 1 year old, you can try giving your child whole milk. If you notice any skin problems, then ask your doctor if you should switch to soy milk.
Eczema in a Breastfed Baby
This is a guest post from Nikki at Christian Mommy Blogger and has been reviewed by Sheila Kilbane, MD.
Do you have a breastfed baby with eczema? There is hope!
Maybe “cured” is a strong word. She still has eczema. She still has gastrointestinal tract issues. She has “struggled” since day one, however, I finally found the cure for my baby’s eczema – through diet. Here is my story (the Reader’s Digest condensed version).
Karli was born on Christmas Eve last year. She was born at just over 6 pounds, but was a mere 5.6 pounds when I brought her home from the hospital. I stress “I” because my husband was deployed during her birth, another stressor during this early time.
- Frail, fragile, gassy: For the first several weeks of her life I swore I was done with breastfeeding every day. “That’s it. No more for me. I am going to the bottle. I can’t handle this!” I won’t delve into the specifics here, but she didn’t latch well, she was too frail and fragile and she was extremely gassy.
- Irregular digestion: Would you believe she only went #2 once every 5 to 7 days? I found that was not uncommon with breastfed babies, but I later learned it should get more regular as they grow. Her “poop” schedule did not get more regular. In fact, at 11 months it was still not regular.
- Eczema and extremely dry skin: Karli had red splotchy spots on her skin. She had very dry skin. She would scream and cry at the mere thought of the bath tub (okay, maybe a newborn didn’t know she was going into the bath, but I did. And she hated it). NOTE: We have a new post here at KS about knocking back eczema without changing the diet, in case the other bullet points here don’t sound like you.
- Loss of weight/not gaining weight when growing: She was eating regularly by about 3 months old. I started to think we were in the clear with her digestive health and she was putting on weight (though she was still very little). It was short lived. Around 4 months she basically stopped gaining weight. By her 10 month check up she weighed in at 15 1/2 pounds. She was tall and scrawny.
- Dark circles/sunken eyes: To be honest, she had those bags under her eyes with dark circles since (almost) day one. I failed to notice this as a symptom. It is a clear sign that your child is fighting something.
Please note, aside from all of these “little baby” symptoms, cognitively she was spot on. Her growth points throughout these months were solid, except for her size. She didn’t let her size get her down. She was always quite a little firecracker and we usually refer to her as “wild!”