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Keywords:

  • asthma;
  • breastfeeding;
  • Japanese infants;
  • prospective study;
  • wheeze

Epidemiological evidence for an effect of breastfeeding on asthma continues to be inconclusive. The present prospective study examined the relationship between breastfeeding and the risk of wheeze and asthma in Japanese infants. A birth cohort of 763 infants was followed. The first survey during pregnancy and the second survey between 2 and 9 months postpartum collected information on potential confounding factors. Data on breastfeeding, wheeze, and asthma were obtained from questionnaires in the third survey from 16 to 24 months postpartum. Adjustment was made for maternal age, maternal and paternal history of asthma, atopic eczema, and allergic rhinitis, indoor domestic pets (cats, dogs, birds, or hamsters), family income, maternal and paternal education, maternal smoking during pregnancy, baby’s sex, baby’s older siblings, household smoking in the same room as the infant, and time of delivery before the third survey. By the third survey, the cumulative incidence of wheeze and asthma was 22.1% and 4.3%, respectively. Neither exclusive breastfeeding for 4 months or more nor partial breastfeeding for 6 months or more were materially related to the risk of wheeze. No measurable association was observed between exclusive breastfeeding for 4 months or more and the risk of asthma. Partial breastfeeding for 6 months or more was inversely related to the risk of asthma although the adjusted odds ratio (OR) was not statistically significant. When infants were stratified according to whether there was a negative or positive allergic history in at least 1 parent, a nearly 40% and 60% decrease, respectively, in the ORs were found for exclusive and partial breastfeeding only in infants without a parental allergic history, although the ORs were not statistically significant. The present prospective study showed no statistically significant relationship between breastfeeding duration and the risk of wheeze or asthma in Japanese infants.