Breastfeeding and lung function at school age: Does maternal asthma modify the effect?

Breastfeeding is associated with improved lung function at school age, particularly in children of asthmatic mothers, according to a new study from researchers in Switzerland and the UK.

"In our cohort of school age children, breastfeeding was associated with modest improvement in forced mid-expiratory flow (FEF50) in our whole group and with improvements in forced vital capacity (FVC) and forced expiratory volume at 1 second (FEV1) only in the children of asthmatic mothers," said Claudia E. Kuehni, MD, MSc, professor at the Institute of Social and at the University of Bern. "In contrast, some earlier studies have suggested that breastfeeding might be harmful in the offspring of mothers with asthma."

The findings were published online ahead of print publication in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and .

The researchers analyzed data from a nested sample of 1458 children from the Leicestershire cohort studies, born between 1993 and 1997 in the UK. They assessed duration of breastfeeding, other exposures and respiratorysymptoms by repeated questionnaires. Post-bronchodilator FVC, , peak expiratory flow rates (PEF), FEF50 and skinprick tests were measured at age 12.

In the entire sample of children, FEF50was significantly higher in breastfed children compared with those who were not breastfed, increasing by 0.130 L/sec (P=.048) in those breastfed for 4-6 months and 0.164 L/sec (P=.041) in those breastfed for more than six months. These effects were larger among children of mothers with asthma, with increases of 0.375 L/sec (P=.015) in those breastfed for 4-6 months and 0.468 L/sec (P=.009) in those breastfed for more than six months. Significant improvements in FVC and FEV1with breastfeeding were seen only in the children of asthmatic mothers. Adjustments for respiratory infections in infancy and asthma and atopy in childhood did not change the results of these analyses.

The study had several limitations, including a modest response rate of the original cohort for laboratory examinations and the use of self-report for determining duration of breastfeeding, maternal asthma and infections during infancy.

"We observed modest improvements in in breastfed children in our cohort, including the children of mothers with asthma. Furthermore, our data suggest that rather than acting by reducing respiratory infections, asthma or allergy, breastfeeding might have a direct effect on lung growth," said Dr. Kuehni. "This study supports a strong recommendation for breastfeeding in all children, including those with asthmatic mothers."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Breastfed babies breathe better, except when mom has asthma

Nov 01, 2007

When it comes to feeding babies, the old adage “breast is best” certainly holds true, with breastfed babies having less diarrhea and fewer ear infections and incidents of wheezing in early life. However, the positive ...

Breastfeeding may prevent asthma

Jul 22, 2011

Feeding a baby on only breast milk and for up to 6 months after birth can reduce their risk of developing asthma-related symptoms in early childhood, according to new research.

Breastfed children do better at school, study finds

Mar 15, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers have shown that breastfeeding causes children to do better at school. The research conducted by Oxford University and the Institute for Social and Economic Research, Essex University, ...

Recommended for you

Health law enrollment now 7.3M

9 hours ago

The Obama administration says 7.3 million people have signed up for subsidized private health insurance under the health care law—down from 8 million reported earlier this year.

ASTRO issues second list of 'Choosing wisely' guidelines

10 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) has released a second list of five radiation oncology-specific treatments that should be discussed before being prescribed, as part of the ...

Bill Gates says progress made on new super-thin condom

11 hours ago

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates said Thursday progress is being made on developing a "next-generation" ultra-thin, skin-like condom that could offer better sexual pleasure, help population control and ...

User comments