Breast-feeding babies staves off asthma risk

Updated: Jul 23, 2011, 10:45 AM IST

London: Breast-feeding a baby for six months post birth can stave off their risk of developing asthma-related symptoms in early childhood, says a scientific study.

The study looked at the impact of the duration of breast-feeding and the introduction of alternative liquids or solids in addition to breast milk.

Generation R Study researchers from Erasmus Medical Centre in The Netherlands, used questionnaires to gather data about over 5,000 children, the European Respiratory Journal reports.

They ascertained in the first 12 months after birth whether the children had ever been breast-fed, when breast-feeding was stopped, and whether any other milk or solids were introduced.

Further questionnaires were completed when the children were aged 1, 2, 3 and 4 years to check whether they had any asthma-related symptoms.

The results showed that children who had never been breast-fed had an increased risk of wheezing, shortness of breath, dry cough and persistent phlegm during their first four years, compared to children who were breast-fed for more than six months.

The strongest links were seen with wheezing and persistent phlegm, as children were 1.4 and 1.5 times more likely to develop these symptoms if they had never been breast-fed.

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 the first four years, compared to children who were exclusively breast-fed for their first four months.

Agnes Sonnenschein-van der Voort, researcher at Generation R, who led the study, said: "These results support current health policy strategies that promote exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months in industrialised countries."

IANS