Moms who breast-feed reduce infants' asthma risk

Last Updated: 2002-07-31 11:58:53 -0400

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Mothers who breast-feed infants for 4 months or
longer may help protect their children from developing asthma, according to
a new study conducted in Australia.

In general, breast-feeding is the best nutrition for infants. It is full of
beneficial hormones, enzymes and growth factors, and reduces infections,
respiratory illness and diarrhea in babies.

However, previous studies of the effects of breast-feeding on infants of
asthmatic mothers have been mixed, with some showing decreases in asthma
while another reported the opposite.

To investigate, Dr. Wendy H. Oddy, of the Telethon Institute for Child
Health Research in Perth, and colleagues evaluated asthma outcomes of more
than 2,600 infants that they followed from preterm to age 6 years. Mothers
answered questions about their own asthma status and how long they
breast-fed, if at all.

The risk of childhood asthma increased by 28% if exclusive breast-feeding
was stopped and other milk was introduced before the infant was 4 months
old, the authors report in the July issue of the Journal of Allergy and
Clinical Immunology. This was true regardless of whether the mother had

"Among many other health benefits, breast-feeding provides protection
against infection through defense agents in the milk," Oddy and colleagues

"Given our findings, we continue to recommend that infants with or without a
maternal history of asthma be exclusively breast-fed for 4 months and
beyond," the authors conclude.

Asthma remains an incurable chronic illness, and death from the disease is
highest among children aged 1 to 4 years--an age group accounting for about
half of all asthma-related emergency department visits.

Copyright 2002 Reuters Limited.