Infant-feeding methods and childhood sleep-disordered breathing

Pediatrics. 2007 Nov;120(5):1030-5. doi: 10.1542/peds.2007-0722.


Objective: Childhood sleep-disordered breathing has an adverse impact on cognitive development, behavior, quality of life, and use of health care resources. Early viral infections and other immune-mediated responses may contribute to development of the chronic inflammation of the upper airway and hypertrophic upper airway lymphadenoid tissues underlying childhood sleep-disordered breathing. Breastfeeding provides immunologic protection against such early exposures. Therefore, we sought to explore whether sleep-disordered breathing severity would differ for children who were breastfed as infants.

Methods: The parents or guardians of 196 habitually snoring children (mean +/- SD: 6.7 +/- 2.9 years old) who were undergoing overnight polysomnography at Kosair Children's Hospital Sleep Medicine and Apnea Center completed a retrospective survey on the method(s) used to feed the child as an infant.

Results: Among habitually snoring children, those who were fed breast milk for at least 2 months had significantly reduced sleep-disordered breathing severity on every measure assessed, including apnea-hypopnea index, oxyhemoglobin desaturation nadir, and respiratory arousal index. Breastfeeding for longer than 5 months did not contribute additional benefits.

Conclusions: Our findings support the notion that breastfeeding may provide long-term protection against the severity of childhood sleep-disordered breathing. Future research should explore mechanism(s) whereby infant-feeding methods may affect the pathophysiology of development of childhood sleep-disordered breathing.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Polysomnography / methods
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / epidemiology*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / prevention & control*
  • Snoring / epidemiology
  • Snoring / prevention & control