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Asthma & Allergies Channel
Reported July 25, 2011

Breastfeeding May Prevent Asthma

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Another bonus for feeding your baby breast milk has been discovered through a new study. Feeding your baby on just breast milk for up to six months after birth can reduce their risk of developing asthma-related symptoms in early childhood.

Through questionnaires from over 5,000 children, the researchers learned if in the first 12 months after birth whether the children had ever been breastfed, when breastfeeding was stopped, and whether any other milk or solids were introduced.

When the children were between the ages of one and four, the team looked to see if they had any asthma-related symptoms. The results showed that the children who had never been breastfed had an increased risk of 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.

The children who were fed other milk or solids during their first four months of birth, 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 breastfed for their first four months of life.

This study is the first to show a link between the length of breastfeeding and the number of wheezing episodes. Researchers also found evidence that the first asthma-related symptoms occur earlier in life if children were breastfed for shorter lengths of time or not exclusively.

"The link of duration and exclusiveness of breastfeeding with asthma-related symptoms during the first four years was independent of infectious and atopic diseases. These results support current health policy strategies that promote exclusive breastfeeding for six months in industrialized countries,” Dr. Agnes Sonnenschein-van der Voort, from the Erasmus Medical Center in The Netherlands, and lead author of the study, was quoted saying.

The researchers believe that further studies are needed to explore the protective effect of breastfeeding on the various types of asthma in later life.

SOURCE: European Respiratory Journal, July 22, 2011.

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