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How breast-feeding cuts asthma risk

Friday July 22nd, 2011

Feeding a baby solely on breast milk for up to six months after birth can reduce their risk of developing asthma-related symptoms in early childhood, researchers said today.

Researchers from the Generation R Study at the Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, looked at what impact the duration of breastfeeding had, as well as implications for the introduction of alternative liquids or solids in addition to breast milk.

They used questionnaires to gather data from more than 5,000 children to establish if they had ever been breastfed, when breastfeeding was stopped, and if any other milk or solids were introduced in the first 12 months after birth.

Further questionnaires were completed annually until they were aged four to establish if the youngsters had developed any asthma-related symptoms.

The results, published online in the European Respiratory Journal, showed that children who had never been breastfed had an increased risk of wheezing, shortness of breath, dry cough and persistent phlegm during their first four years, compared with those who were breastfed for more than six months.

The strongest links were seen with wheezing and persistent phlegm, as children were 1.4 and 1.5 times more likely to develop these symptoms if they had never been breastfed.

Children who were fed other milk or solids during their first four months in addition to breast milk had an increased risk of wheezing, shortness of breath, dry cough and persistent phlegm during the first four years, compared to those who were exclusively breastfed for their first four months.

Dr Agnes Sonnenschein-van der Voort, researcher at Generation R and lead author from the Erasmus Medical Centre, said: "The link of duration and exclusiveness of breastfeeding with asthma-related symptoms during the first four years was independent of infectious and atopic diseases.

“These results support current health policy strategies that promote exclusive breastfeeding for six months in industrialised countries.”

Duration and exclusiveness of breastfeeding and childhood asthma-related symptoms by Agnes M.M. Sonnenschein-van der Voort, Vincent W.V. Jaddoe, Ralf J.P. van der Valk, Sten P. Willemsen, Albert Hofman, Henriëtte A. Moll, Johan C. de Jongste, Liesbeth Duijts. DOI: 10.1183/09031936.00178110

Tags: Allergies & Asthma | Child Health | Childbirth and Pregnancy | Europe | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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