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Keywords:

  • Breast feeding;
  • Cohort study;
  • Measles;
  • Measles vaccine;
  • Protection

Abstract

Background: Breast-feeding protects against many infectious diseases and may also influence immunization outcomes.

Aim: This study investigated if breast-feeding protects against clinical measles and if it modified the effect of immunization.

Methods: We used logistic regression with data for 10 207 individuals from the 1970 British Cohort study (BCS70). Breast-feeding data were collected at five years of age, and information on clinical measles infection, as well as socio-economic measures was collected at the age of ten years. Breast feeding was categorized as: breast-fed <1 month (n = 1611), breast-fed for 1–3 months (n = 1016), breast-fed for more than three months (n = 1108), breast-feeding of uncertain duration (n = 21) and never breast-fed (n = 6451).

Results: Breast-feeding for more than three months was negatively associated with a diagnosis of clinical measles infection after adjustment for crowding, social class, measles vaccination, parity and sex with an odds ratio (95% confidence interval) of 0.69 (0.60–0.81) compared with those who never breast-fed. Measles vaccination was highly associated with low risk for measles with: 0.14 (0.13–0.16). Age at acute measles infection was not associated with breastfeeding. Breast-feeding did not notably alter measles immunization efficacy.

Conclusion: Immunization against measles provides effective protection against the disease. A more modest reduction in the risk of a measles diagnosis is associated with breast-feeding. The associations with a diagnosis of measles for breast-feeding and measles immunization are independent of each other.