Breastfeeding: Can mom's diet cause eczema in baby?

My four-month-old baby has had a scratchy head, neck and ears for the past month. The pediatrician told me she has infant eczema and to apply hydrocortisone cream to the itchy areas. She seems to be in  tremendous pain and now wakes in the middle of the night and cannot fall back asleep. Can something in my diet have caused this condition?

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

There are many factors that can affect your baby's development of eczema. Your diet during lactation can have an impact on your baby. If you have a family history of allergy, including asthma and/or atopic dermatitis, it is wise to avoid dairy products, and other foods you are allergic or sensitive to while breastfeeding. Studies have shown that breastfed babies tend to have less eczema than those on formula.

Exclusive breastfeeding, especially during the first four months of your baby's life is very important. Babies at high-risk for atopic dermatitis have been found to greatly benefit from this practice. Have solid foods or formula introduced into her diet? If they were, they could be part of the problem.

Eliminate all but breast milk from her diet for at least one, preferably two weeks. If she's already on solids, add a very small amount of food (one or two teaspoons) one food at a time for 3-4 days and watch for typical allergic reactions, such as fussy behavior, congestion, ear infections, wheezing, upset stomach, or eczema.

Go very slowly when introducing new foods to your baby. Stay away from those that are highly allergenic, such as cow's milk, soy, peanuts (peanut butter), wheat, eggs and citrus until she is at least one-year-old. Even then, go slowly if food allergies are suspected.

If dietary changes are necessary (it is important to be sure all your nutritional needs are being met).

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