The relation of infant feeding to childhood asthma is controversial. This study tested the hypothesis that maternal asthma alters the relation of breastfeeding to childhood asthma. Questionnaires were completed at age 6, 9 or 11 years by parents of 1043 children enrolled at birth. Active MD asthma was defined as a physician diagnosis of asthma plus asthma symptoms reported on one of the questionnaires. Duration of exclusive breastfeeding, categorized as never, < 4 months, or > or = 4 months, was based on prospective physician reports or questionnaires completed at 18 months. The relationship between breastfeeding and asthma differed by maternal asthma status. For children with maternal asthma, the percent developing active MD asthma increased significantly with longer duration of exclusive breastfeeding. Odds of developing asthma among these children were significantly elevated (OR: 5.7,CI: 2.8-11.5), after adjusting for confounders. This association of longer exclusive breastfeeding with increased risk of reported asthma among children with asthmatic mothers may be biologically based, or may reflect reporting biases.