Association between breast feeding and asthma in 6 year old children: findings of a prospective birth cohort study

W.H. Oddy, Wendy Oddy, P.G. Holt, P.D. Sly, Peter Sly, A.W. Read, L.I. Landau, Louis Landau, F.J. Stanley, Fiona Stanley, G.E. Kendall, P.R. Burton

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Objectives To investigate the association between the duration of exclusive breast feeding and the development of asthma related outcomes in children at age 6 years.Design Prospective cohort study,Setting Western Australia.Subjects 2187 children ascertained through antenatal clinics at the major tertiary obstetric hospital in Perth and followed to age 6 years.Main outcome measures Unconditional logistic regression to model the association between duration of exclusive breast feeding and outcomes related ro asthma or atopy at 6 years of age, allowing for several important confounders: sex, gestational age, smoking in the household, and early childcare,Results. After adjustment for confounders, the introduction of milk other than breast milli before ii months of age was a significant risk factor for all asthma and atopy related outcomes in children aged 6) ears: asthma diagnosed by a doctor (odds ratio 1.25, 95% confidence interval 1.02 to 1.52); wheeze three or more rimes since 1 year bf age (1.41, 1.14 to 1.76); wheeze in the past year (1.31, 1.05 to 1.64); sleep disturbance due to wheeze within the past year (1.42, 1.07 to 1.89), age when doctor diagnosed asthma (hazard ratio 1.22, 1.03 to 1.43); age at first wheeze (1.36, 1.17 to 1.59); and positive skin prick test reaction to at least one common aeroallergen (1.30, 1.04 to 1.61).Conclusion A significant reduction in the risk of childhood asthma at age 6 years occurs if exclusive breast feeding is continued for at least the 4 months after birth. These findings are important for our understanding of the cause of childhood asthma and suggest that public health interventions to optimise breast feeding may help to reduce the community burden of childhood asthma and its associated traits.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)815-819
JournalBritish Medical Journal
Publication statusPublished - 1999


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