The evidence for this health benefit is overwhelming. Breastfeeding protects children from all kinds of respiratory infections, ear infections, allergies and asthma. Many pediatricians trace their patients' allergies and ear infections to exposure to cow's milk in infant formulas. If a breastfed baby experiences colic or allergic symptoms, it is often because the mother ate something that disagreed with her own physiology as well as her baby's. In fact, the mother's diet is the most important factor in breastfeeding. According to pediatrician Lendon Smith, an expert on nutrition and the author of several books on children's health, milk, soy, corn, wheat and eggs are frequent offenders, while a baby's colic can be caused by the mother eating garlic, onion, beans or cabbage. Dr. Smith recommends that nursing mothers avoid these foods.
Saying that a nursing mother should avoid dairy products goes against everything we are taught by physicians and the dairy industry's ad campaigns, but stop and think. Do you really need milk to produce milk? Cows don't drink milk and neither do other milk-producing animals. Millions of women around the world drink no milk at all and nurse their babies successfully. Only in the U.S., Canada and parts of Europe do people assume that successful nursing requires a diet rich in dairy products.
If the indirect consumption of dairy products creates problems for infants, their direct consumption creates more. Raw, unpasteurized, unhomogenized cow's milk is the ideal food for baby calves. Pasteurized, homogenized cow's milk is far from ideal for calves and even farther from ideal for human babies. According to Dr. Smith, cow's milk formulas such as SMA, Similac and Enfamil may precipitate colic, diarrhea, rashes, ear infections, asthma and other conditions in up to 50 percent of the infants who drink them.
Long-term nursing has been shown to provide the maximum lifelong health benefits, but nursing remains unfashionable in the U.S. and new mothers are often pressured to switch from breast to bottle.