A study has found exclusive breastfeeding for the first three months was linked with a lower risk of respiratory allergies and asthma when children reached 6 years of age. In the study of 1,177 mother-infant pairs, a third of the children were exclusively breastfed until the age of 3 months. By the age of 6 years, 20.8% of children had been diagnosed with respiratory allergies and 11.3% with asthma.
Exclusive breastfeeding for 3 months was associated with a 23% lower relative risk of respiratory allergies at the age of 6 years. It was also associated with a 34% lower relative risk of asthma, but only if the children did not have a family history of asthma. Breastfeeding for 3 months, but not exclusively, was insufficient to reduce the risk of respiratory allergies or asthma.
“Airway disorders such as respiratory allergies and some asthma may be prevented in some cases by encouraging exclusive breastfeeding for at least 3 months, as human milk was potentially beneficial in reducing the risk of airway disorders among children,” said author Dr Galya Bigman, of the Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Aim: We examined the associations between breastfeeding and respiratory allergies and types of asthma in American children.
Methods: This longitudinal study used data from mother‐infant pairs who took part in the Infant Feeding Practices Study II in 2005‐2007 and the Year 6 Follow‐Up Study in 2012. The mothers reported breastfeeding practices on a monthly basis for the first year of life, childhood asthma and allergies at age 6 years, and associated factors. Generalised linear models were used in statistical analyses.
Results: Overall, 1177 mother‐infant pairs were included in the sample. A third (32.9%) of the children were exclusively breastfed until the age of 3 months and by the age of 6 years 20.8% had been diagnosed with respiratory allergies and 11.3% with asthma. In the multivariable analyses, exclusive breastfeeding for 3 months was associated with a reduced relative risk of respiratory allergies of 0.77 at the age of 6 years. It also reduced the relative risk of asthma to 0.66, but only if the children did not have a family history of asthma.
Conclusion: This longitudinal study provided evidence that exclusive breastfeeding for the first 3 months may reduce the risk of respiratory allergies and asthma in children 6 years of age, but concerning asthma, statistical significance was reached only in children without a family predisposition to asthma.