Breastfeeding does not boost babies' defence against allergies
The benefits of breastfeeding have been hotly debated in the medical profession for years, but a recent study shows that it does not protect babies against developing allergies.
Pro-breastfeeding campaigners maintain that breast milk boosts a baby’s immune system and protects them from a later threat of developing respiratory illness.
But Canadian researchers have found that extended breastfeeding had no effect on asthma or allergy rates when children reached the age of six.
A group of 13,000 women, with babies born in 1996 to 1997, were split into two groups: the first had help with prolonged breastfeeding, while the second were left to their own feeding plan.
Within the first group, mothers were exclusively breastfeeding at three months and longer.
But, at the age of six, skinprick tests on the children for allergies against house dust mites, cats, birch pollen and mixed grasses, did not show significant resistance compared to the other group.
Dr Michael Kramer, leader of the research at Montreal Children’s hospital, told the Daily Mail: ‘The results from this large trial indicate experimental intervention to promote breastfeeding did not reduce the risk of asthma, hay fever or eczema at 6.5 years despite large increases in the duration and exclusivity of breastfeeding.’
Latest UK breastfeeding figures show that 76% of women start out breastfeeding but fewer than half of mums are breastfeeding at six weeks.
A spokesman at the Department of Health defended the practice, insisting: ‘Breastfeeding is the best form of nutrition for infants and has several health benefits.’