Breastfeeding is recommended for all infants, with very few exceptions. Exceptions include infants with galactosemia, or infants of mothers who are HIV antibody positive or have untreated, active tuberculosis.
4 months does appear to have a protective effect (Chandra, 1997; Saarinen and Kajosaari, 1995; Burr et al., 1993; Lucas et al., 1990).
For infants with a family history of atopy, maternal avoidance of specific foods (e.g. milk and dairy products, eggs, peanuts) during pregnancy and lactation has not been proven to be more effective in reducing the incidence and severity of atopy throughout the first year of life than exclusive breastfeeding without maternal food restriction (Falth-Magnusson, 1994; Zeiger et al., 1989). Risk of reduction in third trimester maternal weight gain and lower infant birth weight in the women avoiding potentially allergenic food during pregnancy illustrate the need for close nutritional monitoring. Until the efficacy of a restricted diet during pregnancy and lactation is known, routine restriction of diets of mothers of infants at risk for allergy is not recommended.
A small number of exclusively breastfed infants may develop allergic responses due to the passive transfer of food antigens from the mother's diet through breast milk. Two protein food antigens, bovine IgG (Clyne and Kulczycki, 1991) and 6-lactoglobulin (Jakobsson et al., 1985) have been detected in breast milk. If exclusively breastfed infants present with clinical signs of atopy, a trial elimination-challenge of suspect foods in the mother's diet is recommended to determine whether or not the infant's reaction is to foods eaten by the mother. Common offending food antigens are protein-rich foods such as cow's milk, fish, eggs, soy and peanuts. If maternal diet modification is deemed necessary, counselling from a dietitian or nutritionist may be beneficial.
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For many years, scientists have been playing out the ingredients that make breast milk the perfect food for babies. They've discovered to day over 200 close compounds to fight infection, help the immune system mature, aid in digestion, and support brain growth - nature made properties that science simply cannot copy. The important long term benefits of breast feeding include reduced risk of asthma, allergies, obesity, and some forms of childhood cancer. The more that scientists continue to learn, the better breast milk looks.