Australian researchers followed 2,195 children for six years to evaluate the effect of breastfeeding on asthma, allergy, and obesity. They found that babies who were exclusively breastfed had a lower incidence of asthma and other allergic disease. Most interesting of all, every month of additional breastfeeding resulted in a four percent reduction in the risk of asthma. The study also confirmed that being overweight is also associated with a higher incidence of asthma. The study did not find any association between overweight and non-breastfeeding, but other studies have found that adolescents who were not breastfed as infants had a higher risk of being overweight than breastfed children.
This study not only confirms the advantages of continued breastfeeding, but once again shows that extended breastfeeding is best for babies. Studies that show an advantage for every additional month of breastfeeding should help convince parents that babies should be breastfed into their toddler years. A similar relationship between breastfeeding and reduced meningitis incidence also shows the tremendous protective effect of breastfeeding on children’s health. Every extra month of breastfeeding further reduces the risk of Hemophilus (Hib) meningitis in children even long after they are weaned.
Oddy WH, et al. The relation of breastfeeding and body mass index to asthma and atopy in children: A prospective cohort study to age 6 years. American Journal Public Health 2004; Sept, 94(9):1531-7.
Gillman MW, et al. Risk of overweight among adolescents who were breastfed as infants. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2001; 285(19):2461-7.
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