Unlike most of our previous Q&As, Maureen Minchin is not an academic researcher. She is a former medical historian turned lactation consultant, who has worked as an advisor to WHO and UNICEF and as a breastfeeding educator, advocate and author. She has written an influential book outlining her theories on breastmilk, formula and milk allergies.
Hi Maureen – thank you so much for joining us such an early hour, Australia time! Please go ahead and introduce yourself.
Maureen: What’s to say? I’m a grandma, mother and friend to all who value babies, women and breastfeeding (BF); I’ve got knowledge based on personal experience and helping families in a community where exclusive BF is more normal than in the UK, so I know more about allergies in young babies than most allergists (or so it seems from practice that advises ending BF and using formula).
My website is http://www.infantfeedingmatters.com and there’s a link to a CV there.
PSG A: Hello Maureen, it’s so lovely that you’re here! Thanks for all your work, and how generous you are with your time and knowledge. What difference you make.
PSG B: Yes, thank you Maureen! I follow you on Facebook and have learnt so much.
Maureen: Thanks, it helps to have support but I wish I thought it made a real difference at the macro level!
PSG AA: Good evening all. I’ll be reading as I’m trying to get my 3 year old nursling to sleep.
PSG AB: Same here 😀
PSG F: Boobing my 11th month old right now. Seems fitting!
PSG AC: Boobing 2yo to sleep here!
Maureen: Well done all of you. It’s what their highly evolved little bodies take for granted! Not everyone gets the support that makes normal infant feeding possible, so realize how lucky you are. And isn’t it just the best gobstopper and comfort device ever invented?!
Q: I’ve felt there’s a lot of positive work going on in infant feeding, Do you think we’re headed in the right direction, generally? By “we” I mean the world!
Maureen: Some of the right directions. As I said in Milk Matters, there is no point urging BF if it’s not supported. That only creates backlash.
But we are still avoiding Voldemort: until we tell people the truth about infant formula, nothing will change at a serious structural level. Formula is necessary FOR NOW, it is not necessary in future and no one who has read Milk Matters will want it – they understand just how fallible it is.
PSG A: Is this because you see a future with more milk banks, like we have blood banks? I can’t see a future without formula; too much money at stake.
Maureen: I understand that. But there’ll be money in milk banking too, though of course I expect that like everything else, that will be a problem and the disadvantaged will have less access.
As it is, already it’s those who know and are connected digitally who are ensuring their babies get breastmilk via milk sharing. There will be problems with all that, which can only be understood and accepted if you know about the problems of formula feeding.
PSG A: Fascinating. I hope for milk banking to be like blood banking; so that national health care like the NHS covers it. As you stated though, the poor in less governmentally secure countries will be left behind. But hopefully, more women will be empowered to share within their communities. We’ll see. 🙂
PSG F: The problem is that you cannot even refer to artificial feeding as artificial feeding in this country, because the word artificial is so triggering to mums. No doubt because of the awful way in which they’ve been let down during their breastfeeding journey. Did you see the article about the hospital who “caused outrage” by referring to formula as artificial?
PSG A: But on the other hand, we can critically reject this. I used formula to top up during my first breastfeeding journey and I retain the right to call it artificial milk; end of. I’m not a health professional, just a mum 🙂 . It is what it is; no shame in that. SMA stands for synthetic or simulated milk adaptation; in other words, artificial milk.
Maureen: So we keep using it. When it was first used the industry asked doctors not to do so, if an early 20th century US book I read is right.
PSG A: Oh really? I wonder why.
PSG F: Oh I totally agree with you. My first was exclusively artificially fed after the first few days, because when my milk came in my 6 week premature baby destroyed my nipples, and there just wasn’t the support back in 1996 to help with his latch. It’s something I’ve felt sad about for many years due to my interest in nutrition, and probably made me even more stubborn to succeed when I was battling so many issues with my tongue-tied middle child. I’ve never felt angry or defensive about it.
I think it’s a new phenomena which is unique to the UK, as in none of the mum groups I’m in with US breastfeeding mums, is there this level of animosity towards breastfeeding celebration and promotion.
PSG D: And some doctors in the media are once again trying to do a good job and quashing any steps forward that are being made ie the Dispatches programme
Maureen: I don’t know Dispatches……
PSG D: It is a documentary programme on Channel 4 here. Last Monday’s was “Breastfeeding Uncovered”. They looked at baby milk ‘ingredients’ then showed the things left in different colour cards fats/vitamins etc.
(Ed: This programme doesn’t seem to be available on the internet any more)
PSG A: I know. Too much diversion from the issue at hand; so disheartening. It’s like some folks just want to see guilt, shame, and judging even when there’s none. Can’t we want better for future mothers? I’m appalled at the lack of critical questioning of what seems to be negative status quo for some, and the acceptance of this negative status quo. For example, instead of holding on tight to stating how some don’t have enough milk, why aren’t more asking why this is the case and push for research to rectify it, for example. Sorry, a bit of a rant there.
PSG F: I definitely felt they had enough material for another hour at least!
PSG D: Equally hopefully it gave a taster and wasn’t too daunting to doubters to go and find out more.
Maureen: I can’t get it just yet but am going to persevere….
Q: Hello! Thanks so much for coming to talk to us. How can we talk to mums about the realities of formula without sounding like extremists!?
Maureen: It takes lots and lots of care and one-on-one conversations that acknowledge how hard the mum tried, whatever her obstacles were. And then lets her know that the problems she experienced are not her fault – that it’s not her body that failed her baby, that she has been the victim of a vast money-making enterprise which produces what is now a necessary product. As one FDA scientist said to me; American society depends on bottle feeding (justifying falsifying a report to reassure parents that formula is safe).
Imagine the world in which breastfeeding was really possible and breastmilk a universal right of babies, just as blood is. And remember, both are living tissues: no living tissue can be replaced by a heat-damaged industrial soup. Yet that is what is seen as equivalent to breastmilk. So unscientific it’s mind-boggling. And in a time when everyone wants fresh local food!
“I am a caring neighbour, she is a busybody, they are extremists”: the less we know about people the easier it is to dismiss them.
This is why EVERYONE commenting on infant feeding issues should declare how they were fed as babies and how they fed their own babies. The most obvious conflict of interest declaration of all, if you ask me! And that’s why there is an Appendix 3 in Milk Matters telling you all about me, so you can assess my motivation and conflict of interest.
Q: How do you think we best deal with Fed is Best?
Maureen: Acknowledge what we can of their concerns, respect their good intentions, and educate them bit by bit. Water dripping on stone, I know. But the science is unbelievable. Daily stem cell transplants, maternal cells persisting so that transplantation is successful if you were breast-fed and your donor is related to your mother, milk that kills viruses, that transfers immune memory…
Q: Maureen, how do you stay passionate? Any survival tactics?
I’ve “only” been a part of the breastfeeding community for just under 4 years, and I’m tired. I’m so tired of us being dismissed and ignored and ridiculed and considered extreme etc etc, by other parents, healthcare professionals, the formula industry, society as a whole. How do we stay sane in this mad world?
Maureen: I hear you. Stay close to the people who know you’re a beacon of sanity, feel pity for those who don’t know or don’t want to know. And rejoice in your lovely children.
PSG X: For me (12 years in) it’s focussing on each individual mother you help. You can utterly change that’s person’s life and the life of their babies by giving them good breastfeeding support. And the ripple effect of that is enormous. I get very depressed looking at “the big picture” but if I focus on the small individual wins I manage to keep going.
Maureen: YES THIS. Ladies, you are changing history with each mum that you help. That family line is being brought back towards the evolved norm by breastfeeding. What you do is huge. If tired, yes, step back, take a break, but this is a cause that needs all of you for your lifetime, even if it “only” means that you ensure that your children birth and breastfeed well, And when you are old women like me you can be as bold and brazen as you like. Just do what you can.
Q: Do you have thoughts on bringing more people into the fold of being pro-breastfeeding?
I just read an article this week about how disproportionate formula feeding is for black American moms versus white American moms. There seems like so much to tackle, how do you prioritise the avenues of change needed?
Maureen: The health equity issues are huge. But voices are emerging in all communities.
Kimberley Seal Allers is a woman of colour who has written a great book, and things will take off within that community with a passion. I provide resources for those who want to make change, by putting the scene together in the way I do. How others contribute is up to them.
But we all matter.
Other books that give me heart are Amy Brown’s, Jennifer Grayson’s Unlatched, and Allison Dixley’s very brave Breast Intentions (abrasive stuff in there, but deep, and her summary at the end is great).
PSG AG: Thank you! Kimberly Seal Allers wrote the piece I read, and loved Unlatched! Will check out the other books, too.
Q: What are your thoughts on the tongue tie ‘epidemic’ ie the seeming rise in diagnosis and occurrence? And what is the best course of action – go straight for snip and possible re-snips, or focus more on positioning and attachment?
Maureen: Complicated topic. It’s possible that this is one of the intergenerational compounding harms that we see in WEIRD nations.
It’s always been there as an issue. What to do? Interfere as little as possible at a time of great vulnerability ie young babies. But if BF is threatened and you really have ruled out other things, then yes, snip.
However, I see TOO MANY images of babes said to be well positioned for attachment or well attached who are not; heads twisted sideways, nostril visible, nose tipped in. Fix the positioning and attachment first above all, then see if the tie is significant.
It can always be divided later, and by experts, at time when you can explain to the child why this is being done and hear them telling you about the experience.
PSG C: What’s a WEIRD nation?!
PSG I: Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, and Democratic.
PSG J: Thank you. I agree, its very complex. My 3 children all had tongue tie and I fed through them with no snip but through peer support. I see what a complex and difficult issue it is.
PSG D: Yes when to divide… my third was done at 9wks old. Seemed about right, he knew where comfort was. But still afterwards he was able to increase my breast milk supply, because he could stimulate further let downs.
PSG A: Unfortunately, in an atmosphere of limited adequate knowledge, limited money, and long waits, getting ties snipped as soon as possible is very attractive.
PSG M: I have issues with this, we were not managing without frenectomy and needed it prior to 8 weeks. Didn’t get until much later of course
PSG N: My son’s was snipped at five weeks and without it, we would have been forced to stop BF. He hadn’t gained weight at all since birth and was not at all well. I have a more pronounced tongue tie than my son and my mum only managed to BF me for 3 weeks. I couldn’t bottle feed either and was on solids at 11 weeks. There most definitely is a place for frenotomy but I agree that some mums presume it’s the sole cause of their issues at the outset without any assessment of positioning and attachment; I feel they should be looked at together rather than in isolation.
PSG F: My middle son had a very restrictive posterior tongue tie that was snipped at 6 weeks, after which he put on a tonne of weight. In the beginning, the poor latch milk transfer resulted in bleeding nipples, mastitis, thrush and an abscess that needed antibiotics and draining over a 4 week period. After the tie was revised, we had no further problems, and went on to feed until he was nearly 3. I don’t think that would have been the case if it hadn’t been snipped though, as his weight gain was poor and nursing sessions were upward of an hour each. Thankfully I managed to exclusively BF him, but it might not have been the case without the revision.
Maureen: Nothing I said above means I disagree that tongue tie can cause all those problems, and indeed it does. For some. Not for others. It depends on the breast’s elasticity and so on a as well as the baby’s oral size and skills.
So well done for those of you who managed to get it done. But please don’t become an evangelist for it as the solution to all BF problems, because it’s not. And it remains a serious thing to do any surgery on a young baby. Especially when it goes beyond simple snip of an anterior tie, to include lips and cheeks and deep posterior cuts and then includes advice to stretch wounds while healing.
My reservations are shared by some very experienced paediatric surgeons who do the surgery and know the oral anatomy. I just think that you eliminate other causes of the problem feeding first, and certainly snip obviously tethered tongues, but there is no way I can see that lip ties prevent good breastfeeding when the seal is between the upper gums and tongue.
PSG O: My son had a frenectomy at 6 weeks without which we would not have carried on exclusively breast feeding. However I have to agree with Maureen Minchin.
My son’s tongue tie was considered slight enough to not bother telling me on the newborn check and I received little help with positioning and attachment as it looked fine from the outside. By the time I left hospital I had a severe laceration that got infected. After 3 weeks of agony I saw a feeding specialist. She helped heal the laceration and also supported me while I practiced latching and unlatching myself until the pain was bearable.
I really believe if I had seen the feeding specialist after 3 hours instead of 3 weeks I wouldn’t have suffered the damage and may have managed to feed without having the tongue tie cut.
Q: Where is the best place to get accurate information to read and pass on about the problems with formula?
Maureen: I downloaded my brain into Milk Matters, the hardback, but then split that into two e-books. The first, Infant Formula and Modern Epidemics, tells the truth about formula and really blows people’s minds; Prof Mary Renfrew said that it’s a book to change the world and people’s understanding of BF. And it changes perspectives. But there needs to be much more condensed and readable stuff, and that will emerge as people read the (fully referenced) book
PSG K: Fantastic!!! Especially the fully referenced part! I need a copy of this!
PSG L: I am working my way through the Infant Formula ebook, a masterpiece. Thank you for writing Milk Matters.
Maureen: Thank you for buying it. It’s the only income that supports my work – the old age pension provides for my living but not this very expensive hobby. So you are helping those I help by getting a copy. Try to persuade your local library to get one in for those who can’t afford it or can’t access the digital versions (almost everyone can afford those!).
Q: This year I feel we’ve really managed some really marvellous leaps during world BF awareness week in the UK. Including a mainstream TV programme that did go into the differences between exclusive breast feeding and artificial feeding in the UK. And about the insidious marketing.
If you could pick one thing to tell someone about the difference exclusive BF could make in the antenatal period, what would it be?
Maureen: If it was a dad, I’d tell him about the study that showed reproductive tissue development measured by ultrasound at 4 months of age showed less testicular tissue in those not BF.
And explain about programming, how early development sets babies on a trajectory that can widen as time goes on.
And about brain white matter development being different when measured by an MRI scan.
And that those studies were not comparing exclusively BF babies with totally artificially fed babies, but groups of mixed fed babies in all likelihood, so any difference measured is misleading.
We back off from emotion-laden issues, but formula marketing uses emotion all the time – and lies. “The perfect mix of science and love” can only come from a mother’s breast.
I love the latest TV programs. UK is ahead of many there – having Amy Brown is a big step forward! (And many others I can think of..)
PSG S: So having the balls to talk about balls 😀 Perfect, I love it.
Q: How do we balance the needs of those babies who medically require formula (with no milk banks etc) with the dangers associated?
Maureen: We can only do what we can do. But often it’s a lot more than you think once people know.
Both my latest grandkids were exclusively BF via a mix of bought breastmilk and other mother feeding which made sure that they got no formula. In Norway they have been using fresh breastmilk since the 1920s with no problems.
In WEIRD nations, a rate of 7% of premature babies with necrotising enterocolitis (NEC – a condition that is more likely to be found in exclusively formula fed babies) has been seen as acceptable (and 20-25% of those die). I think one class action that would succeed now is in NEC cases – suddenly, the hospitals would use their resources to find human milk for human babies. (but of course parents of babies who’ve died or been left with short gut syndromes never get told it might have been avoidable!)
PSG B: My son was born via c-section 5 weeks early and fed formula through a tube for a few days until I was producing enough milk to feed him. I didn’t know then what I know now or I would have fought against it. He had formula for less than a week and I have since breastfed him for 31 months (and still going). Do you think the subsequent feeding can go some way towards rectifying the early harm caused?
Maureen: Absolutely it can and certainly has, but the tendency to that [gut] problem, and maybe the actual sensitivity itself, especially in times of stress, will be there. Because the microbiome is affected and that affects everything, as you know.
The unique vulnerability of that early postnatal period is there so that breastmilk cells can transfer across, and they’re recorded a long way from the gut (like in the bladder).
But you have done all that you could with the knowledge you had at the time. We have our regrets (I certainly do, with my son in his 40s still sensitive to milk) but we should not feel shame or guilt. Just ANGER. Which can change the world.
PSG B: Thank you so much for your reply. I don’t feel guilt, just annoyance that I didn’t know what I know now – anger I guess as you say that these things aren’t widely known. I share links to your articles wherever I see discussions about formula and breast milk, and if there is a next time, things will be very different! Keep up the great work!
PSG T: Many parents have an all or nothing approach – if your child has formula once, that’s it off the BF wagon and no going back.
Maureen: That was how HCPs set it out decades ago; you have to decide one or the other. You don’t. Many women have successfully gone back to BF – though it’s not easy for many.
My 25mth-old came back only positive to egg, but seem to have reacted to milk, egg and soya challenge ladders and via breast milk when younger.
PSG U: The tests can only show an IgE reaction. Non IgE, so delayed reactions, won’t show. So milk and soya were probably non IgE. My lb didn’t get any tests because the dietician said there was no point.[To learn more about IgE and non-IgE mediated allergies, read this information from the NHS]
Maureen: The IgE, non IgE and non-immune mediated is all irrelevant to the clinical reality that the baby reacts badly to something others don’t (which was the original definition of allergy, and in my view remains the sensible one).
It’s relevant to being taken seriously because the system is geared towards what researchers can easily measure an publish articles about.
Of course your baby was allergic and that is a lifelong and transmissible sensitivity which does not always cause symptoms, because that depends on the balance of the Total Body Load and Current Tolerance Level for umpteen things.
Babies today are suffering from what was done to their parents and grandparents when formula feeding was universal in WEIRD hospitals. Just a few bottles is enough to distort normal microbiome development. Keep looking out for articles that include Dr Meghan Azad as an author. She is seeing the difference early exposure to formula. [You can read our Q&A with Meghan here: Breastmilk composition and child health]
Mums today need to now THEY ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE for many of the problems they are dealing with. Yes, they may have contributed, but if they had a miserable baby from birth, it’s because they were affected.
PSG D: That makes sense. I’m a 1970s baby and my mum, whilst in for 10 days, had to ask them to not give me a bottle at 4am otherwise I wouldn’t BF when I came to the ward. I was moved onto artificial feeding at 4-5mths old.
Basically it will take generations of BF in one family to unravel some of the problems caused.
Maureen: The allergists are just beginning to catch up with what we 70s/80s mothers were telling doctors and being told we were neurotic for thinking. It was called “the muesli-belt syndrome” by sneering hospital specialists in Melbourne. And now they are realizing it’s an epidemic a generation too late as it’s compounded since then.
Hospital-based specialists do not see the whole spectrum, dismiss the early signs (which is when intervention like dietary change works best and fastest), and then try to deal with serious problems while continuing to dismiss as unimportant the lesser ones.
Dermatologists have been among the most reluctant to learn. Eczema is always something, always an allergy, sometimes due to contact, and sometimes both food and contact. I don’t know any food-allergic child/mum who doesn’t develop other sensitivities, including to inhaled allergens.
There’s a classic paper that shows in the first US generation of formula fed babies, the increase in eczema was 7-fold that of even partly BF babies. But that 7-fold had to gestate their babies while drinking lots of cows milk in pregnancy. There’s a diagram in Milk Matters that shows how it goes.
PSG D: That will be potentially why we have 2 out of 3 boys with eczema. I’ve been dairy free for about 10 yrs before having my first. So no drinking dairy or particularly eating it in my pregnancies. I even struggle now taking tablets with lactose in.
Maureen: My son is the same, reacts to lactose which is always protein contaminated anyway.
Q: What is your stance on dairy/soya allergy?
I seem to see more and more mothers cutting dairy in particular from their diets because of symptoms baby is having (including myself) but doctors don’t seem to be recognising these symptoms.
Is it really that much on the rise and are the doctors just too far behind? Lately I’ve seen doctors advising formula if baby has a suspected allergy due to recent training by formula companies. How can we combat this?
PSG D: I was a very colicky baby and in my 20s I went dairy-free with lots of improvement to my gut issues… it’s one of the reasons I was determined to BF my first.
Maureen: But of course, because of your past, your bub had problems? Especially as we urge mums to drink lots of cows milk in pregnancy.
What do I think about advising formula? There is NOT ONE formula on the market that some allergic babies do not have problems with, even the EHF (Extensively Hydrolysed Formula has protein chains that are broken down to shorter chain lengths than partially hydrolysed formula) and AA ones.
There’s an online Oz group where parents share their problems and where they always advise that IF you follow advice to stop BF (which I absolutely do not advise) then be sure to maintain lactation by expressing as it’s quite likely that that will be what you come back to after a horrendous trip through sometimes utterly revolting formulas. (Scientists talk about not wanting to be in the room with the lid off he can. All in Milk Matters!)
PSG D: My mum was a dairy farmer’s daughter. Guess where she went initially on discharge from hospital. Yes, a stay with granny to be ‘fed up’ and restored her strength.
Maureen: Cutting dairy often works because it is the most common allergen in WEIRD nations.
If we had fed peanut butter sandwiches to newborns it would be those foods that they react to. And in fact both wheat and peanut were in earlier formulas, now banned in some countries, not others.
But milk is not always the place not start. Allergies are individual and mums should try to identify their own likely problem foods by thinking about pregnancy and past history. The questionnaire in the book (and in my cheap e-book Crying Babies and Food) will help people spot where to start, then the process of how to follow through, eliminate all other possible causes of misery before making dietary changes, plan the changes and be thorough.
I would say that elimination should be for as long as the baby’s body and reactions indicate it’s a good idea, and the first step on any milk ladder should be adding milk back into a BF mother’s diet. Frequent planned challenges (immune stresses) should be avoided, as life will give you plenty of unexpected challenges to confirm continuing sensitivity! Best if the food is back in the diet in some degree before the end of the first year, but diaries and reactions will tell you how to go on.
PSG D: One of the reasons I declined an alternative dairy-free formula for my third child from the dietitian was that at a year he would very unlikely touch it. Plus if I wanted him to have milk on something I would rather express!
Maureen: At 12 months they should be eating food (lots of it, lots of different types) and drinking water, and white liquids are just a part of the diet, and not even a big part. They do NOT need formula past 12 months, perhaps even past 6 if they get the right foods offered in the right way. Babies are programmed to survive. They won’t willingly starve.
Q: Another allergy question! I’m wondering if you would agree that improving maternal gut health would decrease the risk of allergies in preceding babies when the first reacts through breast milk and if so what would you suggest as a way of doing this?
Maureen: Yes, I agree we need to help mothers improve their gut but there’s no fool-proof blueprint for that. We are just at the start of the probiotic revolution and lots of claims have little evidence behind them. And when breastmilk contains literally hundred s of species/strains, adding in a few industrially produced ones, sometimes grown on cows milk or similar, is not always a great idea.
So good diet, avoiding large doses of known allergens in pregnancy, is a good plan. But it does seem important that if kids are not already sensitive, they should get small doses of everything in their diet first thorough mum’s milk, then as tastes and food (under 12 months, but after 6 months if being breastfed. After 4 if being formula fed).[Here is the NHS’s advice on weaning: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/solid-foods-weaning/]
Q: What your thoughts are on the prevalence of food intolerances and breastfeeding practice?
As in whether poor latch, tongue tie, prolonged gaps between feeds, oversupply, etc. in a culture where there is not a lot of knowledge around about what effective breastfeeding looks like might be contributing to the numbers of babies who react to foods. All 4 of mine have reacted to things in breastmilk and have either eczema or food allergy/intolerance. I have wondered whether poor attachment when BF might have contributed, due to irritation of gut through too much foremilk.
Maureen: Good questions, but excess lactose is not going to do more than create loose stools if there’s no underlying problem. And oversupply issues can damp down really quickly with as little as 24-48 hours of one-sided feeding and expressing to keep the other side comfortable.
The second e-book Crying Babies and Food is the relevant part of Milk Matters. And there’s a blog on regulation of milk supply on my site, which you should read so you understand all that supply stuff and can see where the problem was. Also the mastitis chapter too, also online.
Why it makes things difficult is what those mums inherit. In the 1970s almost no babies left some Oz hospitals without being given formula because companies made it available free and in convenient little bottles that saved staff the bother of having to help mothers learn to breastfeed. Damaged dads contribute vie microRNAs in sperm, damaged mums gestate, and milk reflects the mothers’ immune status….
It’s still better than any other option because it’s tailor-made for that baby, but not what it might have been, and can be improved by identifying and ending mother’s problems.
PSG AE: Yes, I know where the problems were in my own experience, but it was possible irritation to the gut from excess lactose I had wondered about, so thank you.
I had wondered because of seeing so many mothers struggle with fussy babies while following poor breastfeeding advice, and also so many suspecting CMPA as a source of struggles, and had wondered whether there was a possible connection. Excess lactose only causing loose stools is reassuring, personally.
Maureen: There’s a lot about lactose intolerance, colic and reflux, in Milk Matters. All can be symptoms as well as causes of problems. You have to be methodical in sorting out what can be a very confusing nightmare time for mums. BF for the first three months is often very hard and it’s only after that you get the rewards.
Q: I’ve been wondering whether the dietary restrictions placed on pregnant women may have a bearing on the likelihood of their child developing a food intolerance (ie reduced intake of dairy produce or runny eggs). What are your thoughts on this?
Maureen: As you’ll read in the book, tolerance is probably created by continuing exposure to small amounts at the right time over a lifetime, with milk reflecting the environment and diet of the mother, along with her immune history and repertoire. So in there, we want those foods in through pregnancy and lactation to induce tolerance.
But if they create reactions in the mother, they are likely to do so in the infant.
We need 4 sets of guidelines: for the allergic/non-allergic breastfed/formula fed. Instead we try to cover everyone with one set of directions.
Cow’s milk, like ours, is a dynamic immune fluid designed to protect a calf, and there are particular issues with its use in pregnancy that have never been adequately researched – the human mother’s creation of anti-antibodies to the cow’s own antibodies found in the milk, for instance. This is all in the book. We’re really just asking the questions a century too late. And we can advise only on an individual basis after a lot of enquiry about particular details.
PSG N: Thank you for your response. Definitely something to consider with my next baby.
Maureen: So heavily cooked dairy like quiche MIGHT be safer than whole cows’ milk as a drink, hard cheeses safer than soft (as processing changes proteins). This might affect immune factors. But we really don’t know so much.
Q: What your thoughts on the push to give babies and children who are breastfed vitamins?
Maureen: If you’re feel the need, eat them yourself, but make sure baby gets sunlight for Vitamin D. Bodies can balance baby’s intake.[Note: In the UK, the NHS recommends that babies from birth to 1 year of age who are being breastfed should be given a daily supplement containing 8.5-10 micrograms (µg) of vitamin D to make sure they get enough. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/vitamins-for-children/]
If, after that mammoth read, you are still up for more breastfeeding discussion, hop straight over to some of our other Q&As. We recommend:
- Breastmilk composition and child health with Dr Meghan Azad
- What’s in breast milk? with Dr Natalie Shenker
- Breastfeeding and Medication with Dr Wendy Jones
You can find a full list of our Q&As on the main page: http://parentingsciencegang.org.uk/live-chats-with-the-experts/