Asthma and Breastfeeding – A New Connection Has Emerged

While many of us have likely heard or read that breastfeeding helps our newborns in a variety of ways, new research suggests that women who breastfeed their babies for at least 6 months may be able to help reduce the risk of their child developing asthma during the early years…and not just a little – the chance is lowered by 50%!


Apparently this is not a new idea but previous research had never concluded how long breastfeeding needed to continue for its health benefits to be in full effect. This most recent research, which came from the Netherlands, used surveys to track asthma symptoms in over 5,000 preschool children. After collecting the data, researchers discovered that children who had never been breastfed were more likely to experience mucus build-up as well as wheezing and coughing. In addition, the study discovered that if a child was breastfed for only a very short period of time, were likely to experiencing coughing and wheezing from ages 1 to 3.


This study which was published in the European Respiratory Journal last month has prompted many mothers and expectant mothers to consider this valuable information when deciding whether to breast or bottle feed.


Why does this connection exist?

It’s still not completely understood why this correlation exists between breastfeeding and lower risk of asthma but some have suggested that it may be due to the impact breastfeeding  has on the immune system as well as digestion.


Understanding Asthma

Those with asthma experience swelling and narrowing of their airways which results in breathing difficulty, shortness of breath and wheezing. Some only experience symptoms during heavy activity while others experience breathing problems daily. These particularly bad bouts of breathing problems are referred to as asthma attacks. When this happens, many people use inhalers to help clear their airways. There is no cure for asthma but there are many ways to help manage the symptoms.
Other Known Benefits of Breastfeeding

  •  Less incidence of allergies for baby
  • Reduce risk of illness later in life
  • Believed to improve cognitive development
  • Maintain a healthier weight
  • Reduce the risk of postpartum depression for mom
  • Reduce certain cancer risks for mom

The decision to breastfeed or bottle feed is a personal one and one that a woman truly must make on her own (or with the help of her spouse). The long lasting effects of breastfeeding are believed to remain to some effect throughout many years of the child’s life. However, researchers are not completely certain if these benefits (as far as asthma is concerned) still exist at all in the teen years.


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