“Breast is best” is a well-known term which insinuates that breast milk is the best source of nutrition for your little one but one study shows this is not the case for newborns born to families with a history of atopic dermatitis (eczema).
Yes, breast milk is FULL of healthy bacteria and nutrients; so long as you’re receiving healthy nutrients in your diet. In most cases, if a woman is able to produce breast milk and maintain a healthy diet, breastfeeding is what I would recommend.
How does this affect whether or not your newborn develops eczema? A dated and small but rather informative study done in 1998, showed that offering formula with a whey protein hydrolysate (pre-broken down/pre-digested or “unbound” protein) formula had beneficial results.
The study took 84 newborns born to parents with eczema. All mothers were instructed to follow a low-allergen diet. Group A consisted of 71 exclusively breastfed infants and Group B consisted of 13 infants who received the formula only for the first 6 weeks of life followed by being exclusively breastfed thereafter. At 12 months into this study, the exclusively fed Group A saw 12 children (17%) develop eczema whereas Group B, who had been exclusively breastfeeding their babies all but for the first 6 weeks, saw zero manifestations. Later on at 18 months into the study, the exclusively breastfed Group A saw 16 (23%) develop eczema symptoms whereas Group B saw zero manifestations.
The results from this study, albeit dated and small, show that it is possible that if eczema runs in your family, you could prevent the manifestation of eczema in your child by feeding them a protein formula for the first 6 weeks of life followed by exclusively breastfeeding them while following a low allergen diet. This study also highlights that by avoiding allergenic foods while breastfeeding, you are also supporting the resilience of your baby toward eczema.
Prof. Dr. H. Böhles, Department of Pediatrics; Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University Thedor Stern Kai 7; 60590 Frankfurt/Main, Germany.
The influence of breast feeding on the development of atopic dermatitis. Exclusive breast feeding versus initial short term feeding of a partial hydrolysate followed by breast milk. (1998, October 21). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0271531798001171