Breastfeeding is the gold-standard of nourishment for the health and well-being of both mother and child. To reap the benefits, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months, with continuation for one year or longer. A mother’s dietary and lifestyle habits do have an affect on the breast milk that she produces, and due to the rapid increase in peanut allergies among children, new mothers may be concerned about whether or not eating peanut butter while nursing is safe for their children.
Transmission Through Breast Milk
Many things are transmitted through breast milk. Food flavors, nicotine, alcohol and medications can all be passed on through breast milk. Moreover, babies exposed to a variety of flavors through their mother's milk may even become more adventurous eaters with a more balanced diet once they are introduced to solid foods. The protein in peanuts can be transferred through breast milk, but this does not mean a child will develop an allergy if exposed to peanut protein. A study published in the 2008 issue of "The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology" found that in Israel, where peanuts are introduced at an earlier age, Jewish children ages 8 to 14 months had a drastically lower prevalence of peanut allergies than their counterparts in the United Kingdom.
According to the AAP, women who do not have food allergies don't need to avoid such foods in their diets during pregnancy or lactation. Women who do have food allergies, such as to peanuts, eggs, wheat or cow’s milk, or those with a family history of food allergies, should avoid those foods and consult with a health care provider trained in food allergies, when planning their diets during pregnancy or breastfeeding. It is possible for a baby to have a reaction to something the mother eats which can cause gas, diarrhea, rash, dry skin, abnormal stools or fussiness. If this occurs, keep a food record of each incident and take it to your health care provider to talk about a possible link between certain foods and your baby's reactions.
Health Benefits of Peanuts and Peanut Butter
Breastfeeding mothers who have generally good diets are able to produce healthy breast milk for their babies, and peanut butter can certainly be included in a balanced diet. It also happens to be flavorful, versatile and inexpensive. Peanuts are a healthy source of plant-based protein and unsaturated fats. They are low in cholesterol and contain fiber to help you feel full and satisfied. Fiber also aids in blood sugar balance and digestion. Peanut Butter contains vitamins and minerals including niacin, which is important for the digestive and nervous systems, energy production and healthy skin. It also contains the antioxidant vitamin E for cell protection and a healthy immune system, and phosphorous for healthy bones, teeth and muscle function.
Peanuts are a source of folate which is important for tissue growth and for preventing birth complications should you become pregnant again. Folate needs are greater during pregnancy, and peanut butter can aid in restoring folate levels back to normal after the baby is born.
Breastfeeding Mother’s Diet
Breastfeeding mothers require 450 to 500 extra calories per day; an increase slightly greater than that during pregnancy. Peanut butter can provide the extra calorie boost needed for increased energy needs. Eating a diet rich in fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, protein, healthy fats and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as walnuts, beans, olive oil, salmon, sardines, tuna and algae, may help decrease the baby’s risk of allergies. There is little need for concern when eating peanut butter while breastfeeding as long as there is no history of peanut allergies in your family.
- Pediatrics: Food Allergen Avoidance in the Prevention of Food Allergy in Infants and Children
- Pediatrics: Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk
- WomensHealth.gov: Breastfeeding Nutrition and Fitness
- Centers for Disease Control: Breastfeeding FAQ
- National Peanut Board: Peanut Nutrition
- The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: Early Consumption of Peanuts in Infancy is Associated With a Low Prevalence of Peanut Allergy