Maternal Modification and Breastfeeding
who are breastfed are also more likely to be at home with their parent, away from childcare centres, lowering the risk of infection (Friedman & Zeiger,2005). Frequent infections in early childhood may be protective against allergy development, stimulating a TH1 immune pathway (Strachan, 2000). A TH2 immune pathway may increase the risk of allergy in those not exposed to infections. Extended breastfeeding, therefore, may prevent an allergy prone child to develop the normal TH1 immune pathway which increases the risk of allergy.
It was also hypothesised that an extended breastfeeding duration for 6 months or longer would be more beneficial when maternal allergen avoidance was undertaken. Breastfeeding still remained a risk factor for sensitisation before age 1, however, the risk was not as profound in the modified group. Modification prevented the increased number of sensitisations to food allergens that accompanied longer breastfeeding in the non modified group. This suggests that sensitising allergens in breast milk play role in increasing allergy outcomes in children.
Future research examining the interaction between modification and breastfeeding for allergy outcomes could use age marked asthma and eczema to provide insight on any age related changes. A more strict maternal diet may provide additional sensitisation protection. The benefits of such a diet and the feasibility of the option for application would need to be assessed. Future research could also look at the severity of food allergy as a dependant variable of modification and breastfeeding.
Conclusion A maternal modified diet in the second half of pregnancy and during lactation can be recommended to families at high risk as it may help prevent eczema and asthma. Extended breastfeeding can not be recommended as a means to prevent allergy. Breastfeeding for 6 months and longer may be a risk factor for food sensitisation before the age of one in high risk children, especially when no dietary avoidance measures are taken. Breastfeeding however still has many health benefits to an infant for neural development and chronic disease (Kemp & Kakakios, 2004) and its avoidance is not warranted by these findings.