Effects of Breastfeeding on Respiratory Symptoms in Infancy

J Pediatr. 2016 Jul:174:111-117.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2016.03.041. Epub 2016 Apr 7.


Objective: To assess the impact of potential risk factors on the development of respiratory symptoms and their specific modification by breastfeeding in infants in the first year of life.

Study design: We prospectively studied 436 healthy term infants from the Bern-Basel Infant Lung Development cohort. The breastfeeding status, and incidence and severity of respiratory symptoms (score) were assessed weekly by telephone interview during the first year of life. Risk factors (eg, pre- and postnatal smoking exposure, mode of delivery, gestational age, maternal atopy, and number of older siblings) were obtained using standardized questionnaires. Weekly measurements of particulate matter <10 μg were provided by local monitoring stations. The associations were investigated using generalized additive mixed model with quasi Poisson distribution.

Results: Breastfeeding reduced the incidence and severity of the respiratory symptom score mainly in the first 27 weeks of life (risk ratio 0.70; 95% CI 0.55-0.88). We found a protective effect of breastfeeding in girls but not in boys. During the first 27 weeks of life, breastfeeding attenuated the effects of maternal smoking during pregnancy, gestational age, and cesarean delivery on respiratory symptoms. There was no evidence for an interaction between breastfeeding and maternal atopy, number of older siblings, child care attendance, or particulate matter <10 μg.

Conclusions: This study shows the risk-specific effect of breastfeeding on respiratory symptoms in early life using the comprehensive time-series approach.

Keywords: breastfeeding; infants; interaction; longitudinal study; respiratory symptoms.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding*
  • Cough / epidemiology*
  • Cough / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Poisson Distribution
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiration Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Respiration Disorders / prevention & control
  • Respiratory Sounds*
  • Risk Factors