Infant health research

These studies examine the protective effect of breastfeeding on asthma into childhood.

Modes of Infant Feeding and the Risk of Childhood Asthma: A Prospective Birth Cohort Study

This Canadian study of 3,296 children explored the link between infant feeding mode at three months and risk of asthma at three years of age. Researchers found that modes of infant feeding were associated with asthma development, with direct breastfeeding being the most protective compared with formula feeding, and indirect breastmilk conferring intermediate protection.

Klopp, A, et al (2017). Modes of Infant Feeding and the Risk of Childhood Asthma: A Prospective Birth Cohort Study, The Journal of Pediatrics,

Breastfeeding, maternal asthma and wheezing in the first year of life: a longitudinal birth cohort study

This study of infants from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) birth cohort found that among mothers with asthma, breastfeeding was inversely associated with infant wheezing, independent of maternal smoking, education and other risk factors. Compared with no breastfeeding at 6 months, wheezing was reduced by 62% with exclusive breastfeeding and by 37% with partial breastfeeding supplemented with complementary foods; however, breastfeeding was not significantly protective when supplemented with formula. Associations were not significant in the absence of maternal asthma. Researchers concluded that breastfeeding appears to confer protection against wheezing in a dose-dependent manner among infants born to mothers with asthma.

Azad, M, Vehling, L, Lu, Z, et al (2017). Breastfeeding, maternal asthma and wheezing in the first year of life: a longitudinal birth cohort study. The European Respiratory Journal, doi: 10.1183/13993003.02019-2016.

Breastfeeding and asthma and allergies

This study systematically reviewed the association between breastfeeding and childhood allergic disease. The authors found some evidence that breastfeeding is protective for asthma (5–18 years). There is weaker evidence for a protective effect for eczema ≤2 years and allergic rhinitis ≤5 years of age, with greater protection for asthma and eczema in low-income countries.

Lodge, C.J. et al (2015) Breastfeeding and asthma and allergies: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Acta Paediatrica, Special Issue: Impact of Breastfeeding on Maternal and Child Health. Volume 104, Issue Supplement S467, pages 38-53. 

Breastfeeding and asthma protection

A large prospective study carried out in New Zealand breastfeeding, particularly exclusive breastfeeding, protects against asthma up to 6 years.

Silvers KM, Frampton CM, Wickens K et al on behalf of the New Zealand Asthma and Allergy Cohort Study Group (2012) Breastfeeding Protects against Current Asthma up to 6 Years of Age. The Journal of Pediatrics. Available online 30 January 2012. DOI:10.1016/j.jpeds.2011.11.055

Breastfeeding duration and exclusivity and asthma protection

This study of 5,358 infants found that shorter duration and non-exclusivity of breastfeeding were associated with increased risks of asthma-related symptoms in pre-school children.

Duration and exclusiveness of breastfeeding and childhood asthma-related symptoms. A.M.M. Sonnenschein-van der Voort, V.V.W. Jaddoe, R.J.P. van der Valk, S.P. Willemsen, A. Hofman, H.A. Moll, J.C. de Jongste, and L. Duijts. Eur. Respir. J. published 20 July 2011, 10.1183/09031936.00178110

Breastfeeding reduces asthma risk regardless of parental history

This study from Holland found that breastfeeding protects against asthma in children aged 1 to 8, regardless of parental allergy.

  1. Scholtens S., Wijga AH., Kerkhof M. et al (2009) Breast feeding, parental allergy and asthma in children followed for 8 years. The PIAMA birth cohort study Thorax;64:604-609; doi:10.1136/thx.2007.094938
  2. Oddy W. (2009)Breast feeding and childhood asthma. Thorax 2009;64:558-559; doi:10.1136/thx.2008.105130

Breastfeeding and lung volume

Two studies, in the Isle of Wight and Arizona, have found that breastfeeding for at least four months increases infants’ lung volume.

  1. Ogbuana IU, Karmaus W, Arshad SH et al (2008) The effect of breastfeeding duration on lung function at age 10 years: A prospective birth cohort study. Thorax: 10.1136/thx.2008.101543
  2. Mahr T (2008) Effect of breastfeeding on lung function in childhood and modulation by maternal asthma and atopy. Pediatrics: 122(Supplement_4); S176-S177


Related research and further reading

Emerging research: Epigenetics and the microbiome

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The impact of breastfeeding on maternal and child health: Acta Paediatrica special issue

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The Lancet: Increasing breastfeeding worldwide could prevent over 800,000 child deaths every year

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