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Breastfeeding children longer can lower risk of asthma, study finds

Experts say exclusively breastfeeding was better than combining it with juice or formula

Mother holding two babies
Photo (c) HollenderX2 - Getty Images
A new study conducted by researchers from the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology explored the link between breastfeeding and asthma. According to their findings, babies have a lower chance of developing asthma when their mothers breastfeed them for longer. 

“The results of the study indicated that the longer a mother exclusively breastfed, the lower the relative odds of her child having asthma, or asthma-related outcomes,” said researcher Dr. Keandra Wilson. 

Long-term respiratory benefits

The researchers analyzed data from over 2,000 mother-child pairs who were enrolled in the ECHO PATHWAYS studies. The mothers reported how they fed their children -- including breastfeeding, formula, and juice -- and how long they gave their children each option. The team followed up with the mothers when the children were between the ages of 4 and 6 and asked them about their children’s asthma outcomes. 

The team discovered a link between the duration that the women breastfed their babies and a lower risk of asthma. 

“There was a ‘dose-response’ effect depending on how long the mother breastfed: Babies that were breastfed 2-4 months had only 64% likelihood of having as many asthma outcomes as those who were breastfed less than 2 months; those breastfed for 5-6 months had 61% likelihood, and those who breastfed for more than 6 months had a 52% likelihood,” Dr. Wilson said. 

While breastfeeding proved to have some protective respiratory benefits, the researchers learned that not all feeding options yielded the same outcomes. There was no lower risk of asthma outcomes observed when women either supplemented breastfeeding with formula or added in juice or other foods. 

“Asthma runs in families, and according to the CDC, if a child has a parent with asthma, they are three to six times more likely to develop this condition than someone who does not have a parent with asthma,” said researcher Dr. Angela Hogan. “Anything a parent can do to lower the odds of their child getting asthma is worth considering.” 

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