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Can breastfeeding stop a baby wheezing?

17 May, 2017

Can breastfeeding stop a baby wheezing?

New research indicates that breastfeeding could play a role in preventing wheezing in the first year of life.

Researchers studied 2773 infants from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development birth cohort. 

Caregivers reported on infant feeding and wheezing episodes at three, six and 12 months. 

Breastfeeding was classified as exclusive, partial (supplemented with formula or complementary foods) or none.

Overall, 21% of mothers had asthma, 46% breastfed for at least 12 months and 21% of infants experienced wheezing. 

Among mothers with asthma, breastfeeding was inversely associated with infant wheezing.

This was the case independent of maternal smoking, education and other risk factors 

Compared with no breastfeeding at six months, wheezing was reduced by 62% with exclusive breastfeeding.  

It was reduced by 37% with partial breastfeeding supplemented with complementary foods, but there was no significantly change when supplemented with formula.

Meghan Azad, one of the authors and assistant professor at the University of Manitoba, said there are two potential reasons.

‘There has been research looking at how hard a baby has to suck on a breast versus a bottle, and it's a stronger sucking that's required for breastfeeding,’ she said.

‘So this is thought to be kind of exercise that trains the lungs of these babies to grow up strong, and so if you remove the breastfeeding then the lungs don't get this exercise.’

She said that the other possibility is that the breastmilk itself in some way can protect babies from wheezing.

The research has been published in European Respiratory Journal, and be accessed by clicking here.

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