Question: I have heard that you should not eat soy, milk or peanuts while breastfeeding because the child may develop allergies to them. Must I really limit my diet that strictly?
Karen Prior responds: Generally there is no need to avoid these foods unless there is a family history of allergies. Eating these foods won't "cause" allergies. Every baby is different. Some babies are sensitive to green beans, some to milk, some to onions … Others could be allergic to any number of foods that they or their mother eat.
One thing you can do to help reduce your child's risk of developing food allergies and sensitivities is to breastfeed and to avoid giving your child any supplements or solid food until he or she is at least 6 to 7 months old. Babies often develop allergies to the first solid foods they are given because their digestive tract lining has not fully developed prior to the introduction of these foods.
It’s best not to avoid any foods yourself, unless you notice a reaction. If you start cutting out foods and limiting your food options, you will be eating high quantities of a limited number of foods. This can create a higher occurrence of food sensitivities and allergies in a breastfed baby.
La Leche League International has a great article on their web site dedicated to this topic, including a great chart of common allergy symptoms to watch out for. Remember that babies can have allergic reaction to other things besides food, so it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint what is causing the reaction. Dr. William Sears also has some great information on allergies in his book The Family Nutrition Book; check out the chapters on beginning solid foods and tracking down food allergies.
Be assured that exclusive breastfeeding for at least six to seven months is the best thing you can do to protect your baby from suffering from food sensitivities and allergies.