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Breastfeeding May Cut Risk of Asthma for Baby

Study Shows Exclusive Breastfeeding for 6 Months Offers the Most Protection From Asthma

Breastfeeding and Asthma Risk continued...

Exactly why the breastfeeding seems to protect against asthma was not looked at in this study, Duijts says. However, she says earlier studies suggest the protection is due to breastfeeding's favorable effects on the immune system and on the gut.

"According to our data, we suggest that mothers breastfeed their children for at least six months and at least four months exclusively," Duijts tells WebMD. The researchers only looked at exclusive breastfeeding for four months, as the numbers who exclusively breastfed at six months were too low.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months.

While 75% of U.S. babies start out being breastfed, just 43% are still breastfed at six months and only 13.3% exclusively at six months, according to the CDC.

Applicable to American Babies?

The study adds new information to what is known, says Linda Dahl, MD, an ear, nose and throat specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. "What is interesting about this study is, they talk about the duration of time."

The researchers also found greater benefits when children were breastfed exclusively, she says.

Dahl cares for adults and children with asthma and allergies. She also helps families whose babies have difficulty breastfeeding.

However, Dahl says, it is difficult to say if the findings would apply to the U.S. The population studied may differ in a number of ways from the U.S. population, she says.

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