If you're a mom with asthma, you may be concerned about whether or not you could put your baby at risk for the condition by breast-feeding. Apparently, this was a legitimate concern for asthmatic moms for many years due to sketchy research on the topic. But a new study has found that babies with asthmatic moms who breast-feed may get just as much benefit from breast-feeding, if not more, compared to those with asthma-free mothers.
The study, published by the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine
, evaluated 1,500 kids in the United Kingdom who were born in the mid 1990s. The kids' families answered surveys regarding breast-feeding as well as the asthma risks, such as secondhand smoke, to which the children were exposed. At ages 8 through 14, the kids came into the lab for a range of tests to determine lung function and allergy stimuli. The study's authors found that the longer kids were breast-fed, the better they performed on tests of lung function.
Better lung function equals less risk of asthma, regardless of whether or not the mother is asthmatic. How does it work? One theory is that the babies' suckling during breast-feeding may strengthen their lungs and help protect them against the later development of asthma. The immune boosters in breast milk might also help to prevent allergies, asthma and other respiratory disorders.
In the past, researchers speculated that asthmatic mothers might pass on immune cells related to allergies and asthma from mother to baby, putting their babies at risk of developing the condition. But this new study completely disproves that dated theory and goes on to show that breast-feeding can help improve the lung function of all babies — and is particularly important for babies of asthmatic mothers who may be more susceptible to the condition.
The World Health Organization recommends breast-feeding exclusively for the first six months of life, continued for two years or longer.