If you want to know what foods that cause eczema in breastfed babies, read on. In this article, I want to talk about an important topic about diet, breastfeeding and your child’s eczema.  Diet is a huge aspect of what causes eczema, although not the only one. This article will discuss what foods you should avoid while breastfeeding. Certain foods that mothers eat can cause eczema to flare up in their child. 

can breastfeeding cause eczema

Can a Breastfeeding Mom’s Diet Affect Her Baby’s Eczema?

Short answer is “yes”. Let’s discover foods that cause eczema in breastfed babies. Breastfed baby get what mom’s consume. The most common culprits include: 

  • Cow’s milk 
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Eggs
  • Shellfish 
  • Tree nuts
  • Peanuts 

There are other food groups that can cause eczema to flare. The ones listed here are the most common groups. Note, these are the same foods that cause eczema in babies who already have eczema. 

How do you know what foods will trigger eczema? 

There are blood tests that can be done and interpreted by an allergy doctor to see what food groups your baby might be sensitive/allergic to. The tests are not 100% accurate. One of the best ways to tell if your child’s eczema is affected by food sensitivity is through trial and error or an “elimination diet”. An elimination diet for breastfeeding moms with baby eczema can identify what food group your child is sensitive to. To do this, a mom can remove one food group at a time and see how the baby responds to this. Sometimes it may take a week to know if there really is a reaction. 

What food do breastfeeding moms have to avoid? 

In general, breastfeeding mothers do not have to monitor or avoid certain types of food if the baby does not have signs of food sensitivity/allergies or eczema. On the other hand, if your baby starts to develop a rash on their face or body, then it’s time to consider a food allergy or sensitivity. 

The common food groups that can cause eczema flare include:

  • cow’s milk products
  • soy
  • wheat
  • eggs
  • shellfish
  • tree nuts
  • peanuts 

If you can avoid these foods, you can give breast milk for eczema without causing it to flare up.

Can breast milk cause eczema?

Breast milk by itself is not the cause of eczema. The foods that a mother consumes and that gets passed down through the breastmilk is what causes eczema. It’s very important to monitor what a mother consumes to keep your child’s eczema under control. For example, we know that peanuts can cause eczema and food allergies. If a mother consumes that, then the food particles will get passed through the breast milk and cause eczema to flare in children with eczema.

What are signs of food allergies and food sensitivities?

Besides an itchy face/body with red rashes, other signs include difficulty consoling your child, waking up suddenly crying due to the discomfort. Again, you should discuss with your medical doctor (ie pediatrician, allergy doctor, dermatologist) regarding a definitive diagnosis. This list of symptoms is not meant to help you diagnose food allergies because it is very complex.

How do I find what foods are causing issues? 

To find what is causing issues, the elimination diet is a good place to start. This diet is a methodical step by step process to help you figure out foods that cause eczema in breastfed babies to flare up.  Think of this as an experiment. We start with a hypothesis that we think might be causing a problem. Then, we methodically do an experiment to see if we are right. 

Similarly, the elimination diet is an experiment and it works like this: 

  1. We know what the major causes of food allergy are (i.e.  cow’s milk products, soy, wheat, eggs, shellfish, tree nuts and peanuts)
  2. Eliminate one of these foods for 2-3 weeks
  3. If eczema improves, then we’re onto something
  4. To check if a food group is really the culprit, reintroduce only one food group (i.e. cows milk) for 3 days into your diet and see if your baby reacts. If so, then we have our answer. 
  5. After 3 days, move onto the next food group and repeat. 

This is a general guideline, but it should be done under the supervision of your doctor in case your child has a severe and possible life threatening reaction after reintroducing a food. 

Can my child outgrow food allergies and sensitivities?

Many children do outgrow food sensitivities, so not all hope is lost. Some studies cite children outgrow food allergies around 12-24 months. At this point, you should consider reintroducing food back in your child’s diet. Allergies to milk, egg, soy, and wheat improve by 12-24 months, while allergy to peanuts and tree nuts persist.

The goal should be to reintroduce those food groups. There is a concern that children lose tolerance to these foods and develop permanent allergy to a food group. A child’s immune system is very fluid and adapts more readily than adults. With repeated small exposure, children can become tolerant. Children can become tolerant to milk, egg, soy, and wheat, whereas peanuts and tree nuts allergies can persist.  Click here to read more about outgrowing child eczema. 

Should I avoid breastfeeding? 

Despite the difficulty mother experience with children from eczema and the potential to constantly flare eczema, the American Academy of Pediatrics still recommends breastfeeding due to the benefits to children. Two big benefits that they summarize include: 

  • “Any duration of breastfeeding beyond three to four months protects against wheezing in the first two years.
  • Some evidence reveals that longer duration of any breastfeeding protects against asthma even beyond age 5 years.”

The atopic triad (asthma, eczema, allergic rhinitis) are 3 conditions that commonly occur together. This last statement above is very encouraging as it basically states that breastfeeding in children with eczema can help protect against asthma as it commonly coincides with eczema. Of course, there is no shaming if you decide to go for formula. Many children develop healthy with formula as well as breast milk. 

What formula should I give my child with eczema? 

Although breast milk is still recommended, hydrolyzed milk is recommended. There is no evidence that formula hydrolyzed milk will prevent eczema. Hydrolyzed means that the cows protein (casein) is broken down into little pieces so it easily digested and not cause allergic reactions in babies. When proteins are big pieces, babies with allergies and food sensitivities have difficulty breaking down these proteins. This is what causes reactions to happen.  Click here for the best formula to give your eczema child!

Do probiotics help prevent eczema? 

A new study shows that probiotics may help prevent eczema in mothers who take probiotics at gestational weeks 36-38 weeks and breastfeeding the first 3-4 months. The researchers looked at Lactobacillus rhamnosus at a dose of 1 to 10 billion colony-forming units per day. The study also looked at fish oil, but they did not look at the dosage. Click here for more information about the benefits of probiotics for eczema. 

When should I start introducing peanuts?

There have been changes since 2015 in the recommendation for introducing peanuts via age appropriate food to children with eczema. The recommendations are based on the landmark study “Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP)”. The latest recommendation is to introduce peanuts at the age of 4-6 months for children with severe eczema and 6 months for children with mild or moderate eczema. The idea is that early exposure can help build tolerance when the immune system is still developing rather than at a later age when it is harder to the immune system to adapt. 

Peanut specific IgE or skin prick testing should be done before introducing peanuts to determine severity of allergies/sensitivities.

I hope that this article helps you figure out what foods can cause eczema in breastfed babies. Knowing what is causing it is nearly half the battle. How is your child doing?