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Keywords:

  • asthma;
  • atopy;
  • breastfeeding;
  • eczema;
  • infant feeding;
  • reverse causality

Summary

Background Although longer duration of breastfeeding and later introduction of solid foods are both recommended for the prevention of asthma and allergic disease, evidence to support these recommendations is controversial.

Objective To examine the relation between infant feeding practices and the risk of asthma and allergic disease at age 5 years.

Methods A cohort of children with a family history of asthma in Sydney, Australia, was followed from birth to age 5 years. Data on infant feeding practices and on early manifestations of eczema were collected prospectively. The presence of eczema, asthma and atopy (positive allergen skin prick tests) were determined at age 5 years.

Results In 516 children evaluated at age 5 years, there was no significant association between the duration of breastfeeding or timing of introduction of solid foods and protection against asthma or other allergic disease, after adjustment for confounding factors. However, breastfeeding for 6 months or more and introduction of solid foods after 3 months were both associated with an increased risk of atopy at age 5 years (P=0.02 and 0.01, respectively). There was no significant association between the presence of eczema at 4 weeks and at 3 months and continued breastfeeding beyond those times.

Conclusion Longer duration of breastfeeding and later introduction of solid foods did not prevent the onset of asthma, eczema or atopy by age 5 years.