Breastfeeding and Asthma
by Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH
For moms who are willing and able to breastfeed, here’s more good news. Feeding your baby breast milk exclusively until age six months can reduce her risk of developing asthma-related symptoms in early childhood.
Researchers involved in the Generation R Study, Erasmus Medical Center in The Netherlands, analyzed data* from more than 5,000 infants to determine the impact of breastfeeding duration and the introduction of alternative liquids or solids to the diet. Additional data were collected when the children were aged one, two, three, and four years to determine whether they had developed any asthma-related symptoms.
The researchers found that children who had never been breastfed had a greater risk of asthma symptoms, including wheezing, shortness of breath, dry cough, and persistent phlegm during their first four years, compared to children who were breastfed for more than six months.
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 their first four years of life, compared to children who were exclusively breastfed for their first four months.
Not all moms can—or want to—breastfeed their newborns. But if you’re willing and able to give your baby breast milk exclusively until the age of six months old, your baby will be more likely to breathe better, thanks to a lower risk of asthma.
*A. M. M. Sonnenschein-van der Voort, V. V. W. Jaddoe, R. J. P. van der Valk, S. P. Willemsen, A. Hofman, H. A. Moll, J. C. de Jongste, L. Duijts. Duration and exclusiveness of breastfeeding and childhood asthma-related symptoms. European Respiratory Journal, 2011; DOI: 10.1183/09031936.00178110