Maternal asthma, infant feeding, and the risk of asthma in childhood

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2002 Jul;110(1):65-7. doi: 10.1067/mai.2002.125296.


Controversy surrounds the issue of whether children with asthmatic mothers should be breast-fed. The aim of this study was to investigate whether maternal asthma status alters the association between asthma and breast-feeding. In a cohort study of 2602 West Australian children enrolled before birth and followed prospectively, we collected data on method of infant feeding, maternal asthma (as reported by parental questionnaire), atopy (as measured by skin prick test), and current asthma (defined as a physician's diagnosis of asthma and wheeze in the last year) at 6 years of age. The risk of childhood asthma increased if exclusive breast-feeding was stopped (other milk was introduced) before 4 months (odds ratio, 1.28; 95% CI, 1.01-1.62; P =.038), and this risk was not altered by atopy or maternal asthma status. After adjusting for covariates, exclusive breast-feeding for less than 4 months was a significant risk factor for current asthma (odds ratio, 1.35; 95% CI, 1.00-1.82; P =.049). There was no formal statistical interaction between breast-feeding and maternal asthma status (P =.970). In this study maternal asthma status did not modify the association between asthma and breast-feeding duration. We recommend that infants with or without a maternal history of asthma be exclusively breast-fed for 4 months and beyond.

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / etiology*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Exposure
  • Risk Factors