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Jul 25, 2011

Asthma Risk Lower in Breastfed Babies

Breastfeeding is known to provide multiple benefits to mothers and their babies.  A recent Dutch study published in European Respiratory Journal has revealed that breastfeeding for at least six months seems to lower a child’s risk for developing asthma while exclusive breastfeeding for six months offers an even higher level of protection.  Though other reports on asthma and breastfeeding have been made, this study seems to be the first to examine the correlation of length of breastfeeding with the number of wheezing events in children later on in life.  The study looked at more than 5,000 children from the Netherlands.  Parents of children ages 1 through 4 were questioned annually about asthma-related symptoms.     

According to Liesbeth Duijts, MD, PhD, "Children who were never breastfed had almost 50% more risk of wheezing symptoms as compared to children who were breastfed for more than six months."  A 20% increased risk of wheezing was found in children who were both breastfed and given other milk and solids from an early age.  Those children who were never breastfed not only had an increase in wheezing, but also higher risk for shortness of breath, dry cough, and persistent phlegm during their first four years of life compared with children who breastfed for over 6 months.    

Though this particular study was not performed on the U.S. population, the conclusions drawn likely have similar application in children living in the U.S.  According to the CDC, only 43% of babies in the U.S. are still breastfed by six months of age, while only about 13% are exclusively breastfed up to this age. 
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of age. Breastfeeding’s favorable effects on immune and digestive function in babies should be taken advantage of whenever possible!         

Dr. Shana McQueen