The role of breast-feeding in the development of allergies and asthma

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2005 Jun;115(6):1238-48. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2005.01.069.


Breast-feeding is the preferred method of infant nutrition for numerous reasons. However, its role in the prevention of allergic disease remains controversial. Reasons for this controversy include methodological differences and flaws in the studies performed to date, the immunologic complexity of breast milk itself and, possibly, genetic differences among patients that would affect whether breast-feeding is protective against the development of allergies or is in fact sensitizing. The preponderance of evidence does suggest, however, that there would be much to lose by not recommending breast-feeding. In general, studies reveal that infants fed formulas of intact cow's milk or soy protein compared with breast milk have a higher incidence of atopic dermatitis and wheezing illnesses in early childhood. Consistent with these findings, exclusive breast-feeding should be encouraged for at least 4 to 6 months in infants at both high and low risk of atopy and irrespective of a history of maternal asthma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / adverse effects
  • Allergens / immunology
  • Animals
  • Asthma / etiology
  • Asthma / genetics
  • Asthma / prevention & control
  • Breast Feeding* / adverse effects
  • Diet
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / etiology*
  • Hypersensitivity / genetics
  • Hypersensitivity / prevention & control*
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Lactation
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Milk Hypersensitivity / etiology
  • Milk Hypersensitivity / genetics
  • Milk Hypersensitivity / prevention & control
  • Milk Proteins / adverse effects
  • Milk, Human / chemistry
  • Milk, Human / immunology*
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use
  • Risk Factors
  • Soybean Proteins / adverse effects


  • Allergens
  • Milk Proteins
  • Soybean Proteins