Changing Mom's Diet May Decrease Colic

For Breastfeeding Moms, Limiting Allergy-Causing Foods May Lessen Crying, Distress in Infant

From the WebMD Archives

March 23, 2004 (San Francisco) -- Moms may want to avoid allergy-causing foods during breastfeeding. A new study shows that eliminating certain foods from a mother's diet can reduce colic in her infant.

Colic, which affects some 20% of infants, drives many parents crazy with their child's intense bouts of crying. However, researchers suggest that colic may simply be due to an allergic response to certain food proteins found in the mother's breast milk. Other studies have suggested that by avoiding certain foods in her diet, a mother can reduce the risks of allergies in her breastfed infants.

"Moms need to be reassured that their breast milk is fine," says study researcher David J. Hill, director of the department of allergy at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. "Their baby, through an accident of nature, is making a mild allergic response manifesting itself in colic."

Researchers presented their study at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

They studied 90 breastfed infants less than 6 weeks old with colic. Half of the infant's mothers were assigned a low-allergen diet for one week that excluded common allergy-causing foods, including cow's milk, eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and soy. The other mothers were assigned a diet that contained these foods.

After just one week, the researchers found that 74% of the colicky babies whose mothers had eaten a low-allergen diet showed less distress compared with only 37% of the babies whose mothers had eaten a regular diet.

In the final two days of the one-week study, the babies whose mothers were on the low-allergen diet reduced their crying by 128 minutes compared with the first two days. Babies on the standard diet reduced their crying by only 70 minutes.

However, the study doesn't absolutely confirm that foods eaten by the mom are causing allergies in her infant's colic, says Stanley Goldstein, MD, director of Allergy and Asthma Care of Long Island and the session moderator. "It would be important to know whether there is a true effect," he says.

Still, it may provide some useful direction. "If you have a colicky child, it would be wise to cut down on food allergens," Goldstein notes. "It may be helpful."

Hill also advises talking to a doctor first. "This is not a program mothers should be initiating without a doctor," he says. "We discourage mothers randomly putting themselves on a low-allergen diet."

SOURCE: AAAAI 60th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, March 19-23, 2004.