Breast milk reduced respiratory symptoms about 27 percent
For their study, the researchers included data from 368 infants who were part of the Basel-Bern Infant Lung Development birth cohort in Switzerland.
The researchers assessed the genetic profile of each infant, and they gathered data on occurrence and severity of respiratory symptoms, as well as breast-feeding status in the first year of life.
Among children who carried the 17q21 gene variants,the risk of respiratory symptom development was 27 percent lower on the weeks they were breast-fed. On the weeks these children were not breast-fed, respiratory symptoms were more likely to arise.
Dr. Gorlanova says this study is the first to show that breast-feeding can alter the effect of gene variants known to raise asthma risk, in order to reduce respiratory symptoms in early life.
"As research in this field progresses, we are understanding more and more about the gene-environment interaction for the development of asthma.
Our study sheds light on how this interaction can be modified by breast-feeding. This is the first time that we were able to show the effect of the 17q21 variants on respiratory symptoms during the first year of life, depending on breast-feeding status. Our results must be replicated in another cohort." Dr. Gorlanova.
Breastfeeding is the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, and the support of their family, the health care system and society at large.
Colostrum, the yellowish, sticky breast milk produced at the end of pregnancy, is recommended by WHO as the perfect food for the newborn, and feeding should be initiated within the first hour after birth.
Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.