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Can Breastfeeding Prevent Eczema in Babies?

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Watching a little baby frustrated by the itching discomfort of eczema is heartbreaking for parents. Yet it is a common malady among little ones. Could it be caused by infant formulas? Could breastfeeding help to prevent this miserable condition in babies? Actually, the research is beginning to say, yes.

A large study was done in the country of Belarus. Researchers monitored over 17,000 mothers with infants. Those babies who were breastfed for at least 3 to 6 months were half as likely to be troubled with baby eczema a year later as the formula fed babies were. The breastfed babies also had healthier digestive systems.

After analyzing research data on breastfeeding and formula feeding, the American Academy of Pediatrics made the statement that breastfeeding only for at least four months was the best preventive measure parents could take to avoid allergic diseases in their babies. These allergic diseases included eczema as well as respiratory illnesses. The AAP further stated that it probably does not make much difference what the mother eats. Breast milk is still helpful. In fact, of all the different factors they looked at, they found the most marked evidence in the matter of breast milk and infant eczema. Being breastfed reduced a baby's chance of developing eczema by one third.

They further found that soy formulas did not protect against the development of eczema and other allergies. The best formulas they found were hydrolyzed infant formulas not made with cow's milk. Hydrolyzed formulas are also called "predigested" because they contain proteins that are partially broken down before the baby eats them.

Some studies have not been so conclusive, but have shown that the length of time a baby was breastfed and whether or not it developed allergies or eczema were unrelated. Still, most experts recommend breastfeeding as the best food for a baby, and there is evidence that it can help to prevent eczema from developing. A parent of a baby that is at high risk for developing eczema, such as when it runs in the family, should certainly try breastfeeding if at all possible.

Another tactic is to use moisturizers liberally right from the beginning, before the skin gets a chance to dry out. If it does develop, your doctor can help with medications and treatment advice. In summary, perhaps breastfeeding alone won't stop every child from having eczema, but it certainly makes sense to do it if you can.

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