Researchers from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada say mother's milk may help protect newborns and young children from developing asthma.
The researchers looked into the first-year year breastfeeding habits of more than 2,000 Canadian mothers. At the time of the study, the children were between 12 and 24 months old.
They found that infant or childhood asthma was associated with several risk factors apart from breastfeeding, including having parents with asthmatic conditions, having parents who smoked before or after the child's birth, being premature, having low birth weight and being a male child.
Breastfeeding duration appeared to play a significant role in blocking the development of asthma. Babies who had been breastfed for at least 9 months appeared to gain protection against the disease.
However, the researchers pointed out that more than 40% of the babies had been breast fed for less than 2 months--or not at all.
The results show that if you breastfeed your baby for more than 9 months the effect of reducing the risk of asthma is very good. But the researchers noted that because breastfeeding for that length of time is "not always feasible" for various reasons, a reasonable recommendation would be to breastfeed for at least 4 to 6 months.
Asthma remains an incurable chronic illness, and death from the disease is highest among children aged 1 to 4, an age group accounting for about half of all asthma-related emergency room visits.
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