INTRODUCTION: The prevalence of asthma and atopic disease in childhood is increasing yearly. A protective connection between breastfeeding and development of atopy has been suggested in several studies.
OBJECTIVE: Our goal was to investigate the correlation between breastfeeding and atopy.
METHODS: We screened 1525 children aged 2 to 5 years. Information on the outcome variables “ever wheezing,” “recurrent wheezing,” “diagnosed asthma,” “itchy rash,” “recurrent rash,” and “diagnosed atopic dermatitis” was obtained. Multiple logistic regression analysis was used to estimate the association of outcome variables with the independent variable (breastfeeding) after adjustment for gender and parental history of allergy.
RESULTS: Median duration of exclusive breastfeeding was 1 month (range: 0–2 months). Children who were breastfed exclusively for >3 months had 28% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.53%–0.98%) and 29% (95% CI: 0.51%–1.00%) lower likelihood of ever developing wheezing and recurrent wheezing, respectively. Partial breastfeeding seemed to place the children at significantly greater risk for ever and recurrent wheezing when compared with exclusive breastfeeding. There was no significant difference between exclusive breastfeeding versus formula feeding. Of the ever-breastfed children, 15.2% developed itchy rash versus 10.9% of those who never breastfed. Girls had a significant lower odds ratio (OR) for ever wheezing (OR: 0.76 [95% CI: 0.62–0.94]) and “diagnosed asthma” (OR: 0.60 [95% CI: 0.43–0.85]). Of the children studied, 3.7% had a positive parental background for allergy. Parental history of allergy comprised a significant factor that indicated a greater OR for all outcome variables apart from “diagnosed asthma.”
CONCLUSIONS: Breastfeeding seems to have a significant protective effect against the development of wheezing and asthma but not toward the development of skin atopy. A prospective randomized, controlled trial with longer follow-up time is required to confirm our findings.
Submitted by Yannis Manios
- Copyright © 2008 by the American Academy of Pediatrics