Breastfeeding Benefits: Study Finds Links That Breastfeeding Protects Babies From Asthma Development

By Amanda Moore, Parent Herald December 15, 04:00 am
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Ideally, babies should be breastfed for at least six months so that they can receive all the benefits.
(Photo : Uriel Sinai/Getty Images )

Among the many breastfeeding benefits, a recent study has found that it can also protect babies from asthma development. Children with high risks for asthma due to genetics could very well avoid the condition if they have been breastfed in infancy.

The study, which was presented on this year's European Respiratory Society's International Congress, involved 368 infants at the Basel-Bern Infant Lung Development in Switzerland. The researchers conducted genotyping and looked into data that included breastfeeding activity and the babies' respiratory symptoms.

Experts note that the risk of having asthma is higher among babies who have the chromosome 17q21 variant in their genetics, along with factors from their environment. But this chromosome can be modified, thus giving the researchers the idea to study how breastfeeding could affect it. They learned that in the weeks the babies were breastfed, the researchers saw a 27 percent reduced risk compared to the weeks when they were not breastfed.

"Breastfeeding can modify the effect of asthma-related genetic profiles on respiratory symptoms in the first year of life," study co-author Dr. Olga Gorlanova said, per Eurekalert. "This is the first time that we were able to show the effect of the 17q21 variants on respiratory symptoms during the 1st year of life, depending on breastfeeding status," Gorlanova said.

Asthma is one of the leading causes of child hospitalization and emergency room visits, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. It starts with a cough, which can develop into wheezing and then lead to breathing problems or tightness in the chest.

In children, the symptoms of asthma can be severe because of their smaller airways. So when a child does become asthmatic, he's likely to miss school days and his parents will have to shell out money for medication and checkup.

The study supports earlier findings linking breastfeeding and reduced asthma risks from another research conducted in 2011, according to Science Daily. It recommended breastfeeding for at least six months so that the baby can fully gain the benefits that will protect him from developing asthma.

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