Breastfeeding Improves Lung Function

Breastfeeding led to improved lung function in children of asthmatic mothers

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Mothers now have even more reason to breastfeed. A new study shows breastfeeding led to better lung function in children, especially in children of mothers with asthma.

Modest lung function improvement was shown in all children who were breastfed. Additional tests showed breastfeeding helped improve lung function of children with asthmatic mothers. Researchers recommend breastfeeding in all children.

"Ask your doctor about ways to reduce the risk of asthma."

The study was led by Claudia E. Kuehni, MD, MSc, from the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Bern. The study involved 1,458 children born between 1993 and 1997 in the United Kingdom.

Mothers filled out several questionnaires regarding how long they breastfed their child and respiratory symptoms and any exposures. Forced mid-expiratory flow (FEF50), forced vital capacity (FVC) and forced expiratory volume at 1 second (FEV1) were used to determine lung function. In addition to those tests, a skin prick test for allergies was given to the children when they turned 12.

The FEF50 score, which measures the speed of air during the middle section of forced exhalation, was higher in all children who were breastfed compared to children who were not breastfed. Children who were breastfed for more than six months had the highest improvement.

For children with asthmatic mothers, the FEF50 score was higher than both the breastfed children and the children who were not breast fed. The highest improvement, again, was for children who were breastfed for more than six months.

The FVC measures air volume after forced exhalation after full inhalation. The FEV1 measures how much air is exhaled in one second. Significant improvement was shown for breastfed children of asthmatic mothers. There was no improvement in FVC or FEV1 score in children whose mothers did not have asthma.

The reason why breastfeeding may improve lung function does not involve reducing the risk of asthma, infections or respiratory disease. Instead, researchers believe breastfeeding might directly be related to lung growth.

Some limitations to the test included having less than 50 percent of children undergo laboratory testing and self-reporting of breastfeeding duration, maternal asthma and any infections during infancy.

Based on the results, researchers recommended breastfeeding for all children, especially children with asthmatic mothers. Breastfeeding for more than six months provided the best results.

Funding was provided by the Swiss National Science Foundation and Asthma UK. No author conflicts were published.

This study was published in the February edition of American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

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Review Date: 
February 1, 2012
Last Updated:
February 6, 2012