Breastfeeding significantly decreases the risk of asthma and related wheezing disorders, concludes a systemic review and meta-analysis recently published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Researchers including Dr. Cristian M. Dogaru of the University Campus Suffolk in the United Kingdom reviewed 117 observational studies on the link between breastfeeding and the risk of childhood asthma in the general public published between 1983 and 2012 that included approximately 250,000 babies. The researchers used the PubMed and Embase databases to search for cohort, cross-sectional, and case-control studies.
All the studies included in the meta-analysis took into account whether a child had previously been diagnosed with asthma or had experienced asthma or wheezing within the previous twelve months.
Using random-effects meta-analyses, the researchers calculated the association of breastfeeding with the risk for asthma ever, recent asthma, or recent wheezing illness. The researchers additionally looked at length of breastfeeding, creating three categories of duration: (1) ever versus never, (2) three to four months or more versus less than three to four months, and (3) six months or more versus less than six months.
According to the meta-analysis, breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of asthma and other wheezing illnesses. The link is strongest in children aged up to two years and decreases with age.
Comments a spokesperson from the charity Asthma UK, “The review provides good evidence that children who are breastfed have a lower risk of developing asthma.”
Breastfeeding provides numerous benefits to both mothers and babies. The present systemic review and meta-analysis provides evidence that breastfeeding protects against the development of childhood asthma.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life followed by continued breastfeeding with the introduction of complimentary foods through age 1 and then continued breastfeeding until age 2 or beyond as mutually desired by mother and baby.
Another recent study found that breastfeeding also reduces the risk of childhood snoring.
Breastfeeding and Childhood Asthma: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis: http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/04/10/aje.kwu072
Breastfeeding ‘Cuts Childhood Asthma Risk’: http://www.nhs.uk/news/2014/05May/Pages/Breastfeeding-cuts-childhood-asthma-risk.aspx
Young Infant Breastfeeding: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/161052