Objective: To investigate the effects of breastfeeding on wheezing and current asthma in children 2 to 6 years of age.
Study design: Infants (n=1105) were enrolled in a prospective birth cohort in New Zealand. Detailed information about infant feeding was collected using questionnaires administered at birth and at 3, 6, and 15 months. From this, durations of exclusive and any breastfeeding were calculated. Information about wheezing and current asthma was collected at 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 years. Logistic regression was used to model associations between breastfeeding and outcomes with and without adjustment for confounders.
Results: After adjustment for confounders, each month of exclusive breastfeeding was associated with significant reductions in current asthma from 2 to 6 years (all, P<.03). Current asthma at 2, 3, and 4 years was also reduced by each month of any breastfeeding (all, P<.005). In atopic children, exclusive breastfeeding for ≥ 3 months reduced current asthma at ages 4, 5, and 6 by 62%, 55%, and 59%, respectively.
Conclusion: Breastfeeding, particularly exclusive breastfeeding, protects against current asthma up to 6 years. Although exclusive breastfeeding reduced risk of current asthma in all children to age 6, the degree of protection beyond 3 years was more pronounced in atopic children.
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