Breastfeeding Does Not Reduce Allergy, Asthma Risk

Neither exclusive nor extended breast-feeding make a difference

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Neither extended nor exclusive breast-feeding have an impact on the risk of allergy and asthma development in children, according to research published online Sept. 11 in BMJ.

Michael S. Kramer, M.D., of Montreal Children's Hospital in Quebec, Canada, and colleagues conducted a study of 17,046 mother-infant pairs from 31 Belarussian hospitals and clinics, of whom 13,889 were followed-up at 6.5 years. Half the pairs were in hospitals that provided breast-feeding support and promotion in line with the WHO/UNICEF baby friendly hospital initiative, while the other half were not.

By three months after birth, 43.3 percent of the women in the intervention group were exclusively breast-feeding, versus 6.4 percent in the control group. The women in the former group were also significantly more likely to be still breast-feeding at the 12-month mark.

However, skin prick tests for five inhalant antigens showed that the intervention group did not have reduced allergic reactions. "In fact, after exclusion of six sites (three experimental and three control) with suspiciously high rates of positive skin prick tests, risks were significantly increased in the experimental group for four of the five antigens," the authors write.

"These results do not support a protective effect of prolonged and exclusive breast-feeding on asthma or allergy," they conclude.

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