Breastfeeding mothers have been advised to stop eating nuts by the co-author of a study which found children who are solely breastfed for the first six months of life may be at increased risk of developing a nut allergy.
Researchers from the ANU and the ACT Health Directorate found that children starting school in Canberra who had been exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life were 1.5 times more likely than other children to develop a nut allergy.
The finding was based on a study of more than 1500 children over five years and published in the International Journal of Pediatrics.
Study author, Professor Majran Kljakovic of the ANU Medical School, said he would advise mothers to breastfeed but avoid exposing their babies to nuts through breast milk.
''If my children have babies or I have more babies I will recommend breastfeeding but I'll throw away the nuts,'' Professor Kljakovic said.
Children starting school who had been exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life were 1.5 times more likely than other children to develop a nut allergy
Professor Kljakovic and his co-authors noted that other studies had concluded exposure to allergens could occur with breastmilk and result in sensitisation.
Professor Kljakovic said the study results contributed to the argument breastfeeding alone did not appear to be protective against nut allergy in children.
''It may, in fact, be causative of allergy,'' he said.
Almost 4 percent of ACT children starting school have a parent-reported nut allergy, which is almost twice the rate than in Britain.
The Australian breastfeeding Association is sceptical about the study's findings. Breastfeeding Association spokeswoman Nicole Bridges said breastfeeding had a range of benefits for mother and their babies, including some protection against certain cancers. ''It is important because it has protective benefits for mothers and their children,'' she said.
The study also found that introducing foods or other fluids before six months was found to have a protective effect against parent-reported nut allergy, either exclusively or in combination with breast milk. This is contradiction to current Australian and World Health Organization guidelines which recommend that mothers exclusively breastfeed infants for the first six months to achieve optimal growth, development and health.
The authors of the study have called for more research regarding nut sensitisation and infant feeding practices. Essential Baby recommends that pregnant and breastfeeding women concerned about allergies and breastfeeding speak to their GP.
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