Extended Breastfeeding May Help Prevent Eczema

Nursing our children may reduce their chance of developing eczema as teenagers.We know the benefits of breastfeeding are tremendous, but new research suggests that nursing our children may reduce their chance of developing eczema as teenagers.

Research has shown over and over that breastfeeding our children has tremendous benefit for both baby and mother, and new findings come out all the time. Now research data from Belarus suggests that breastfeeding may actually cut in half the risk that babies will develop eczema as teenagers.

Related: Study: Maternal Diet May Play a Major Role in a Baby’s Eczema Risk

The data comes from an ongoing project that tracks the health benefits of being nursed in infants who are raised in Belarus. The researchers were not looking for a cause-effect relationship between extended breastfeeding and the development of eczema or asthma, nor did they compare the information with mothers who did not nurse their children.

They were basically looking at the long-term health of babies, whose mothers were in a program that encouraged mothers to breastfeed as long as possible, and comparing them to babies who were raised by mothers who were not in the extended breastfeeding program.

What they found was that less than one percent (0.7) of the babies whose moms did not have extended breastfeeding support developed eczema at 16, compared to over half that number (0.3) in those children whose mothers were in the program.

They did not find evidence that extended breastfeeding made a difference in asthma acquisition, said study author Dr. Carsten Flohr, but Flohr said that was not surprising as there doesn’t seem to be any peer-reviewed evidence that supported the theory that breastfeeding protected against asthma. Dr. Flohr is with the St. John’s Institute of Dermatology at King’s College London.

Related: Probiotics May Be a Safe Way to Clear Up a Child’s Eczema

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends nursing babies until four to six months, at minimum, to promote protection against allergies and disease. Eczema is not contagious, but is a chronic condition that is often associated with those who have allergies and/or asthma, and about 30% of Americans will develop it, according to the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

This study looked at almost 14,000 new mothers between 1996 and 1997, all of whom started nursing their babies when born. Half were given encouragement in hospitals deemed ‘baby-friendly’ to nurse longer, while the other half were not. They were also given questionnaires.

The researchers found that in mothers who had been part of the baby-friendly programs, the eczema risk, though already small, was more than half the risk of children whose mothers were not in the program.

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