Modes of Infant Feeding and the Risk of Childhood Asthma: A Prospective Birth Cohort Study

J Pediatr. 2017 Nov;190:192-199.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2017.07.012.


Objective: To determine whether different modes of infant feeding are associated with childhood asthma, including differentiating between direct breastfeeding and expressed breast milk.

Study design: We studied 3296 children in the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development birth cohort. The primary exposure was infant feeding mode at 3 months, reported by mothers and categorized as direct breastfeeding only, breastfeeding with some expressed breast milk, breast milk and formula, or formula only. The primary outcome was asthma at 3 years of age, diagnosed by trained healthcare professionals.

Results: At 3 months of age, the distribution of feeding modes was 27% direct breastfeeding, 32% breastfeeding with some expressed breast milk, 26% breast milk and formula, and 15% formula only. At 3 years of age, 12% of children were diagnosed with possible or probable asthma. Compared with direct breastfeeding, any other mode of infant feeding was associated with an increased risk of asthma. These associations persisted after adjusting for maternal asthma, ethnicity, method of birth, infant sex, gestational age, and daycare attendance (some expressed breast milk: aOR, 1.64, 95% CI, 1.12-2.39; breast milk and formula, aOR, 1.73, 95% CI, 1.17-2.57; formula only: aOR, 2.14, 95% CI, 1.37-3.35). Results were similar after further adjustment for total breastfeeding duration and respiratory infections.

Conclusions: Modes of infant feeding are associated with asthma development. Direct breastfeeding is most protective compared with formula feeding; indirect breast milk confers intermediate protection. Policies that facilitate and promote direct breastfeeding could have impact on the primary prevention of asthma.

Keywords: asthma; breastfeeding; pumped breast milk.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Asthma / prevention & control
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Breast Milk Expression
  • Canada
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Formula / adverse effects*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Protective Factors
  • Risk Factors