Timing of infant feeding in relation to childhood asthma and allergic diseases

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2013 Jan;131(1):78-86. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2012.10.028. Epub 2012 Nov 22.


Background: Emerging evidence questions current recommendations on the timing of infant feeding for the prevention of childhood allergies. The evidence for asthma is inconclusive.

Objective: We sought to investigate the associations between the duration of breast-feeding and timing of introduction of complementary foods and the development of asthma and allergies by the age of 5 years.

Methods: Data were analyzed for 3781 consecutively born children. The dietary exposures were categorized into thirds and analyzed as time-dependent variables. Asthma, allergic rhinitis, and atopic eczema end points were assessed by using the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood questionnaire, whereas IgE antibodies were analyzed from serum samples at the age of 5 years. Cox proportional hazard and logistic regressions were used for the analyses.

Results: The median duration of exclusive and total breast-feeding was 1.4 months (interquartile range, 0.2-3.5 months) and 7.0 months (interquartile range, 4.0-11.0 months), respectively. Total breast-feeding of 9.5 months or less was associated with an increased risk of nonatopic asthma. Introduction of wheat, rye, oats, or barley at 5 to 5.5 months was inversely associated with asthma and allergic rhinitis, whereas introduction of other cereals at less than 4.5 months increased the risk of atopic eczema. Introduction of egg at 11 months or less was inversely associated with asthma, allergic rhinitis, and atopic sensitization, whereas introduction of fish at 9 months or less was inversely associated with allergic rhinitis and atopic sensitization.

Conclusion: Early introduction of wheat, rye, oats, and barley cereals; fish; and egg (respective to the timing of introduction of each food) seems to decrease the risk of asthma, allergic rhinitis, and atopic sensitization in childhood. Longer duration of total breast-feeding, rather than its exclusivity, was protective against the development of nonatopic but not atopic asthma, suggesting a potential differing effect of breast-feeding on different asthma phenotypes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / epidemiology
  • Hypersensitivity / etiology*
  • Male
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors