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Does Prolonged Exclusive Breastfeeding Reduce the Risk of Childhood Asthma?

Does Prolonged Exclusive Breastfeeding Reduce the Risk of Childhood Asthma?

Whether longer duration of breastfeeding provides protective effects on asthma in children has been debatable as past studies showed conflicting results. The findings from a more recent cohort study (Silvers et al., 2012) confirmed the positive answer for this question.

This newer reliable study found that each additional month of exclusive breastfeeding was associated with significant reductions in wheeze and asthma from 2 to 6 years. It confirmed that exclusive breastfeeding for at least 3 months was associated with reduced asthma up to 6 years, particularly in atopic children.

The organ systems in babies are immature. The immature intestine and immune system particularly expose young children to a higher risk of atopic diseases including asthma. It is believed that the composition of breast milk changes according to the newborns need for passive immunological protection. There are several unique bioactive components in breast milk that are important in neonatal immune system development.These include enzymes, hormones, and etc.

This cohort study provided the evidence to reassure mothers to persist breastfeeding for reducing the risk of asthma in their children. Although longer duration of exclusive breastfeeding can provide more protection, breast milk does not supply enough amounts of some nutrients such as iron, zinc and copper for the baby’s increased nutritional needs at 6 months of age. Therefore, exclusive breastfeeding should be supplemented by weaning foods appropriately as the child grows older.

Reference:

  1. Friedman NJ, Zeiger RS. The role of breast-feeding in the development of allergies and asthma. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2005;115:1238¨C48.
  2. Oddy WH, Holt PG, Sly PD, et al. Association between breastfeeding and asthma in 6 year old children: findings of a prospective birth cohort study.BMJ 1999;319:815¨C19.
  3. Scholtens S, Wijga AH, Brunekreef B, et al. Breastfeeding, parental allergy and asthma in children followed for eight years: the PIAMA birth cohort study.Thorax 2009;64:604¨C9.
  4. Silvers KM, Frampton CM, Wickens K, et al. New Zealand Asthma and Allergy Cohort Study Group. Breastfeeding protects against current asthma up to 6 years of age. J Pediatr 2012;160:991¨C6.

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