Breastfeeding Increases Lung Function, Combats Asthma, Study Says

Breastfeeding is associated with a great many benefits to mother and child and relatively few drawbacks, and more research has been added to the mounting pile of evidence that breast is best.

In the past, there had been some indication in research that moms who breastfeed and are asthmatic might have been placing their babies at increased risk of asthma by picking breastmilk over formula. However, two new research reports suggest that- unsurprisingly- breastfeeding leads to better cardiovascular outcomes in infants overall.

The new data suggests that breastfed babies seem to get the same benefits- if not more- from nursing relationships with asthmatic moms. Dr. Wilfried Karmaus specializes in asthma, and commented on the findings to Reuters. Karmaus- who was not involved in the research- said that breastfeeding should be encouraged among moms who suffer from asthma:

“I think the evidence is that breastfeeding increases lung volume, independent of if the mother is asthmatic or not. If the lung volume is increased, then you are less susceptible to get asthma. It’s important even to tell asthmatic mothers to breastfeed their children.”

The data came from two studies- a large one out of the UK, and a smaller study that took place in New Zealand. And while some docs say that the research comes down on the side of breastfeeding unequivocally, others believe that the question is still up for debate. Dr. Theresa Guilbert is a pediatric pulmonologist from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, Wisconsin. Guilbert says that the question as to whether moms with asthma pass it on through breastfeeding is still “controversial,” and she commented:

“There’s a lot of things that breastfeeding is very, very good for… I think the jury’s still out on the risk of breastfeeding from mothers that are asthmatic. I don’t think any of that (evidence) is now strong enough to tell moms they should stop breastfeeding… because of all the other important benefits that breastfeeding conveys to the child.”

It was noted that any direct link between breastfeeding and asthma risk is difficult to prove given the vast number of factors- like diet, air quality and demographic data- that can influence outcomes.