Breastfeeding Works! Even With Allergies

Book review of Breastfeeding Works! Even With Allergies by Robyn Noble, IBCLC, 2015

book cover Breastfeeding Works! Even With Allergies

Breastfeeding Works! Even With Allergies by Robyn Noble is a slim little book of just over 100 pages and a quarter of these are the references. However, what it might lack in size is more than made up for in content, with each chapter being easy-to-read and packed with useful information.

Breastfeeding Works! Even With Allergies includes a comprehensive list of symptoms that can indicate food allergy in a breastfed baby. In addition to familiar symptoms such as a miserable baby, eczema, mucus or blood in the poop, there is information on less familiar symptoms. The author shares that difficulties sucking or latching, and sore or compressed nipples can be linked with pain or discomfort due to a baby’s allergy related gut symptoms. And mysteries such as the baby with copious runny poop who doesn’t gain weight, the baby with excessive unpleasant smelling flatulence (farts!) or the baby with a constant sore bottom can also be associated with food allergy. There is further assistance towards recognising symptoms by way of comprehensive photographs of abnormal poops, rashes and nipple damage that can be associated with food allergy.

Once food allergy is suspected, Noble explains how the breastfeeding mother’s diet can be altered to help her nursling. In addition to including suggested foods for a baseline exclusion diet (low allergen diet), there is also an explanation of which types of diet can exacerbate a baby’s symptoms and how to avoid common pitfalls when changing diet. For immediate help, there is a description of many breastfeeding positions and techniques that can comfort fussy babies who seem to struggle to breastfeed in traditional holds.

If you want to know the best way to help an allergic baby, whether children will grow out of their allergies, whether antibiotics or vaccination could contribute to food allergy or what to do about introducing solid food, this little book is for you.

it is best that vaccines are not given to anyone with abnormal bowel motions, a major sign of abnormal gut conditions. When in an unhealthy state, the gut (and therefore the immune system) is already under duress, less able to respond normally to extra provocation… p59

Robyn Noble writes with authority and with 500 references to evidence her words. I particularly liked her insights into some current beliefs and trends. For example on the topic of colic she writes:

Commercial claims that colic mixtures ‘help bring up wind’, and ‘anti-colic’ feeding bottles and teats ‘stop excessive air swallowing’ reinforce long-standing ideas that air-swallowing causes colic. Excess swallowed air does not usually pass into the intestines – it is simply burped back up the oesophagus. p27

And on tongue function causing sore nipples, an alternative explanation is offered that might explain some diagnoses of tongue-tie that aren’t tongue-tie:

Infant pain appears to commonly cause an increase in muscle tension around the jaw, with a ‘knock-on’ effect on the posterior muscle of the baby’s tongue, causing to to act like a piston during feeds, pushing the part of the breast resting on it firmly up into the baby’s posterior hard palate. p40

On the question of whether food allergic babies are better off being weaned onto special formulas, Noble gets to the point quickly with her no nonsense style:

it is sinister that artificial baby milks, however specialised are promoted as being superior milks for allergic babies. It is even more insidious to hear such messages reiterated by paediatric specialists working with these children and their families. p46

…formulas are

  • concentrated sources of the problem proteins
  • without the advantage of having been processed by maternal digestion
  • utterly devoid of the other benefits bestowed by her milk. p47

Some clinicians believe it is impossible for babies to react to elemental prescription formulas, even though some ingredients are not enzyme-reduced to their most basic elements, amino acids. p46

Any parent who has a mysteriously unhappy or unsettled breastfed baby and any lactation consultant or health care professional helping them will find Breastfeeding Works! Even With Allergies is essential reading. With everything in one place, this is a fantastic resource for families with a baby who is reacting to food proteins in breast milk from their mother’s diet.

For those wishing for a cheaper option than the book itself, a downloadable pdf version is available from the author’s website for a fraction of the cost.