NEW US research has found that infants who are exclusively breastfed for the first three months of life appear to have a lower risk of developing eczema in childhood compared to babies who were breastfed for less time or not at all.
Carried out by researchers at the Children's National Medical Center, the new study looked at data gathered from the Infant Feeding Practices Study II, a longitudinal study co-led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The study provided information on the diets of around 2,000 pregnant women during their third trimester, as well as their breastfeeding habits during their infants' first year.
The researchers also followed up on 1,520 of the children to look at their diet, health, and development at age six.
The findings, presented during the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology 2019 annual meeting, showed that the children who were exclusively breastfed for the first three months of life had a significantly lower chance of having eczema at age six compared with children who were not breastfed or were breastfed for less time.
The researchers also found that children with a family history of food allergies or a higher socio-economic status also had a higher chance of being diagnosed with eczema.
“The evidence that being exclusively breastfed protects children from developing eczema later in life remains mixed,” says lead author Katherine M Balas. “Our research team is trying to help fill that data gap.
“Children who were exclusively breastfed for three months or longer were significantly less likely (adjusted odds ratio: 0.477) to have continued eczema at age six, compared with peers who were never breastfed or who were breastfed for less than three months,” Balas adds.
“While exclusive breastfeeding may not prevent kids from getting eczema, it may protect them from experiencing extended flare-ups.”
The results are also supported by those from a large-scale study carried out by UK, US, and Canadian researchers, which looked at 17,046 mothers and their newborn babies to find that babies exclusively breastfed from birth for a sustained period had a 54 per cent lower risk of eczema at the age of 16.
Eczema is a chronic condition which causes the skin to become itchy, dry, cracked, sore and red and affects around one in five children and one in 10 adults in the developed world.