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

February 3, 2012, American Thoracic Society

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."

Explore further: Breastfeeding may prevent asthma

Related Stories

Breastfeeding may prevent asthma

July 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.

Recommended for you

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.