Most doctors encourage
breastfeeding by emphasizing that breast
milk contains antibodies to help babies fight off harmful bacteria and other germs. However,
a recent study,
published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, suggests that breastfeeding might
not always protect babies against allergies and asthma.
shouldn’t be. Past studies have often shown inconsistent results, but
because this one focused solely on the impact that breastfeeding has on asthma, hay fever
and eczema (and is also one of the most extensive studies of its kind), it’s
drawing a lot of attention.
self-reported data from more than 330,000 middle-aged individuals in the U.K.,
researchers determined that breastfeeding—while also factoring in genes, environment
and lifestyle—could increase the risk of developing hay fever and
shows that individuals that were breastfed as babies have an increased risk of
developing hay fever and eczema, while breastfeeding doesn't seem to have an
effect on asthma," says Weronica Ek, researcher at Uppsala University's
Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology, who led the study at the Swedish institution.
that increased socioeconomic status appeared to lower the risk of asthma while
at the same time increasing the risk of developing hay fever. This evidence,
according to researchers, supports another theory—the "hygiene
hypothesis"—which states that growing up in a cleaner environment increases the
risk of being diagnosed with allergies due to a lack of early childhood
exposure to microorganisms.
determined that high BMI—a measure of body fat based on height and weight—could
also elevate the risk of asthma, hay fever and eczema. On the flip side,
participants who exhibited a higher birth weight were less susceptible to these
scientists were unable to identify any protective supplements that
breastfeeding might offer toward asthma or other allergies, they did note that
this was an observational study only, which does not allow for clinical
recommendations. In other words, the study does not imply that breastfeeding is
harmful to newborns; it merely suggests that it might not protect them against
asthma, hay fever and eczema.
In addition to that,
underlying factors that researchers were unaware of could have affected their findings. For instance,
mothers who have the diseases themselves might have been recommended to breastfeed
or not to breastfeed. If unreported during analysis, this information could
have easily affected their conclusions.
The researchers stress that breastfeeding has a positive effect on the overall health of a baby and
findings such as these should not be used to encourage or discourage new moms from making the choice that works best for them.
authors of the present study
do not take any positions as to whether breastfeeding represents the best source
of nutrition for newborns, Ek believes that analyzing the impact that
breastfeeding has on allergies and asthma might offer new insight and "give a
more correct picture of the health benefits of breastfeeding."
August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and mom.me is celebrating by sharing a different selfie every day of a nursing mom—no matter how long or short their journey was. These women all share the common bond of doing their best to feed their babies whether by breast, by pumping or by bottle. No matter the route, we're all in this together and we honor all moms who work so tirelessly to give their child the ultimate gift of love.