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Breastfeeding can protect infants from asthma?

health and fitness Updated: Feb 13, 2012 18:00 IST
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Here's yet another reason why mothers should breastfeed their babies -- it can fend off asthma in children up to an age of six years, says a study.

An international team, led by the University of Otago, has shown that breastfeeding of infants has a clear protective effect against the children developing asthma or wheezing up to six years of age, 'The Journal of Paediatrics' reported.

In their study, researchers analysed 1,105 infants in New Zealand over six years before coming to the conclusion that it has a protective effect on the development of asthma in kids.

In fact, the team asked questions about breastfeeding and gathered information on wheezing and asthma in the children at two, three, four, five and six years.

The protective effect against the development of asthma is even stronger in those infants and children who are atopic, that is those who have allergies and are therefore more vulnerable, the findings revealed.

Exclusive breastfeeding for three months within this atopic sub-group reduced current asthma at six years by 59 per cent, bringing their risk down to that of non-atopic children.

"These are very robust and convincing results which support a global public health message to breastfeed to prevent asthma," lead author Dr Karen Silvers said in a varsity release.

She added: "If every infant in this NZ cohort had been exclusively breast fed for six months, as is recommended by the WHO, current asthma would have been reduced by 50 per cent at two years, 42 per cent at three, 30 per cent at four, 42 per cent at five and 32 per cent at six years."

The study shows a waning of the impact of breastfeeding after four years of age, which Silvers said is to be expected as children are exposed to other risk factors for asthma and wheezing as they age.