10 Nov 2008
Breastfeeding for at least four months helps children breathe more easily and may curb their susceptibility to asthma, reveals research published ahead of print in the journal Thorax.
The findings are based on almost 1500 British children born on the Isle of Wight between 1989 and 1990 (Isle of Wight Birth Cohort), whose respiratory health was tracked at the ages of 1, 2, 4 and 10.
Extensive information was gathered during their check-ups. This included details of familial asthma and allergies, whether the mother smoked, and if she had breastfed her baby, and for how long.
Each child was also given a physical examination, and tested for asthma symptoms or allergic reactions.
When the children were 10 years old, their lung function - which included lung elasticity and air flow rate - was also tested.
Among the 1000 or so children for whom full data were available, around a third (374) had been breastfed for at least 4 months. The rest had either not been breastfed at all, or had been breastfed for shorter periods.
The results showed that those children who had been breastfed for at least 4 months had significantly higher values of FVC (forced vital capacity) and PEF (peak expiratory flow) by the age of 10.
FVC measures the amount of air blown out of the lungs after taking a deep breath, while PEF describes the speed of air blown out of the lungs.
The findings held true irrespective of whether the children's mothers were asthmatic or allergic.
Certain breast milk chemicals, which boost the developing child's immune system, may help explain the findings, say the authors.
But they also point to the difference in impact on the lungs of suckling on a breast compared with sucking from a bottle.
The duration of exercise a baby gets breastfeeding is almost twice as long as that for a bottle feed, and bottle feeding also induces a higher rate of swallowing, more interrupted breathing, and requires less lung power.
"Effect of breastfeeding duration on lung function at age 10 years: a prospective birth cohort study."
Online First Thorax 2008; doi 10.1136/thx.2008.101543
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Article URL: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/128748.php