Your Baby's Diet and Eczema

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 17, 2018
3 min read

When your baby has eczema, you may wonder if that itchy rash is related to your feeding style. Is breastfeeding to blame? Or is it the solid foods you just introduced?

Some simple tips can help you get your baby off to a healthy start.

Breast milk is always best. It gives your little one the perfect balance of fat, protein, and other nutrients. It's also good for your baby's growing immune system.

"Breastfed infants will get some of the mom's immune system, so it actually helps boost their immunity," says Cindy Gellner, MD, a pediatrician at the University of Utah Community Clinics.

Breastfeeding also helps make the immune system less sensitive. That's important for eczema, which is triggered by overactive defenses.

Certain foods in a mom's diet could cause problems for their baby with eczema. If you’re breastfeeding, you may want to avoid common triggers like:

  • Cow's milk
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Shellfish

Signs that your baby is having a reaction to something you ate include an itchy red rash on the chest and cheeks, and hives. If you see these, stay away from whatever you think may be causing the problem for a couple of weeks.

If things get better, brings foods back one at a time, says Robert Roberts, MD, PhD, a professor of pediatrics at UCLA.

Get some help from your doctor so you'll know when it's safe to start eating those foods again.

"All babies will start off on milk-based formula," Gellner says. "If the baby has a lot of eczema and it's really problematic, then we'll try switching them to a formula made with hydrolyzed proteins."

Hydrolyzed means that the milk proteins are already broken down, so they're less likely to trigger an allergic reaction.

Experts say you can start your baby on solids between 4 and 6 months old. Ask your pediatrician what age is best for your child.

Many parents start their babies with iron-fortified rice or oatmeal cereals, and then graduate them to fruits and vegetables. Still, it's perfectly fine to start your kid on stage 1 fruits and vegetables or puree a veggie or fruit yourself.

"The biggest issue for parents of children with eczema is they need to introduce one food at a time so they can know what is causing a problem," says Chris Adigun, MD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the New York University School of Medicine. "Stick with that food for at least 4 or 5 days before you move on to the next food."

After each new one, watch out for signs of an allergy, like:

  • Diarrhea, sometimes with blood
  • Hives
  • Rash
  • Swelling of the lips or tongue
  • Vomiting

If you see any of these, call your child's doctor.

Around 1 year old, you can try giving your child whole milk. If you notice any skin problems, then ask your doctor if you should switch to soy milk.