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Saturday, 3 August, 2002, 22:57 GMT 23:57 UK
'No asthma risk through breast milk'
Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding protects against asthma
Mothers who have asthma can not give it to their babies through breast milk, say scientists.

There had been concerns that asthmatic mothers might increase their child's risk of the condition if they breastfed them.

But Australian scientists have dispelled this with a study on over 2,500 children.

Experts are now urging all mothers to ensure they exclusively breastfeed their babies for at least the first four months.


We did find that if a mother had asthma that the babies risk was not increased

Dr Wendy Oddy

The six-year Australian study found that the risk of childhood asthma increased by 28% if exclusive breastfeeding was stopped before four months old, regardless of whether the mother were asthmatic.

Researcher Dr Wendy Oddy, of the University of Western Australia, in Perth, said all mothers regardless of whether or not they have asthma should feed their own babies where possible.

"We did find that if a mother had asthma that the babies risk was not increased," she said.

"Breastfeeding protects against wheezing in infancy.

Data

"With the 2,000 children we studied we showed that if they were breastfed for four months or more then their risk was decreased, but if formula milk was introduced the risks were increased.

"Breastfeeding provides protection against infection through defence agents in the milk.

"Given our finding, we continue to recommend that infants with or without a maternal history of asthma are exclusively breastfed for four months and beyond."

Breastfeeding poster
There are a number of global campaigns to promote breastfeeding

A spokeswoman for the National Asthma Campaign said the new data backed their advice.

"The question of whether breastfeeding does or does not reduce the risk of asthma is a complicated one," she said.

"The National Asthma Campaign recommends that you breastfeed and avoid solid foods until your baby is at least four months of age as this may reduce the chance of your child developing allergies, including asthma."

Heather Welford, of the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) agreed that breast was best.

"Breastfeeding has a number of health benefits and protects babies against atopic diseases.

"We would encourage all mothers to breastfeed because there are a number of benefits."

See also:

04 Aug 02 | Americas
13 May 02 | Health
08 Feb 01 | Health
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