It’s no fun having to watch everything your child eats or rushing to the hospital with an anaphylactic shock. We’d all happily modify our pregnancy diet if it could keep our babies from developing food allergies. Yet the available information on the link between pregnancy diet and allergies is often confusing. What exactly are we supposed to be eating and will it help?
What can you do while you’re pregnant?
Researchers mostly agree that excluding potential allergens from your pregnancy diet will not make your child less likely to develop allergies. Some will even argue that the opposite is true. A research project by Harvard Medical School published earlier this year found that babies have lower risk of peanut and tree nut allergies if their mothers consumed these products during pregnancy (unless the mother herself was allergic).
There’s no need to restrict your pregnancy diet to prevent allergies and in fact, it’s not recommended because you’ll be depriving yourself and your baby of important nutrients. Fish is a source of omega-3 fatty acids, which stimulate healthy brain development, eggs contain a variety of vitamins and peanuts are a great source of folate.
One factor that increases your child’s risk of developing allergies is smoking. Don’t smoke while you’re pregnant and keep your baby away from smoke once she’s born.
To reduce the likelihood of your baby, developing allergies, experts recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 4-6 months where possible. This is especially important if you have a history of allergies in your family, which places your baby into the increased risk category. Once your baby is 4-6 months old introduce a new food every 2-3 days so that you can monitor any unusual reactions. There is not enough evidence that restricting your diet during breastfeeding can help prevent allergies for your baby.
For more information on allergies and allergy prevention visit www.alergy.org.au.
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