London: Exclusive breastfeeding appears to have another advantage -- it significantly cuts a child`s risk of developing asthma, a new study has claimed.
The Dutch study of more than 5,000 children found that those who are not breastfed are up to 50 per cent more likely to exhibit asthmatic symptoms than those who are breastfed for at least first four months of their life.
These children were 50 per cent more likely to have persistent phlegm and 40 per cent cent more likely to wheeze regularly.
They also tend to suffer more from shortness of breath and a dry cough in the first four years of life, found the researchers from at Erasmus Medical Centre in The Netherlands.
"The results support current health policy strategies that promote exclusive breastfeeding for six months," Dr Agnes Sonnenschein-van der Voort, who led the research, was quoted as saying by the Daily Telegraph.
For their study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, the researchers followed 5,368 children up to the age of four. Their mothers were asked about how they fed them as babies.
According to the authors, breastfeeding could cut the chance of asthma by reducing the number of serious colds and flu virus infections, those which affect the lungs.
The researchers also found that feeding them formula milk or solids alongside breast milk in the first four months increased the chances slightly.
Previous studies have shown that breastfeeding cuts the risk of infections in the first six months of life.
Others have found it cuts the chance of childhood obesity and -- more controversially -- can lead to more intelligent and better behaved offspring.
The World Health Organisation recommends that babies should be breastfed for at least six months and slowly being introduced to solids.