MedWire News: Breastfeeding for at least 4 months increases lung volume in children, possibly as a result of the physical effort involved, researchers report in the journal Thorax.
The findings “add to the evidence supporting the promotion of prolonged breastfeeding for the improvement of lung volume in late childhood,” Ikechukwu Ogbuanu (University of South Carolina, Columbia, USA) and team write.
Although the protective effects of breastfeeding against early-life respiratory infections are established, there have been conflicting reports on protection from asthma in late childhood.
Ogbuanu and team investigated the relationship between duration of breastfeeding and lung function in a well-characterized, whole-population birth cohort (n=1033) on the Isle of Wight, UK.
The team assessed breastfeeding practices and duration at birth and at subsequent follow-up visits (1 and 2 years). Breastfeeding duration was categorized as never breastfed (n=196), or breastfed for 2 months (n=243), 2-4 months (n=142), or >4 months (n=374). Lung function was measured at age 10 years.
Compared with those who were not breastfed, forced vital capacity (FVC) was increased by 54.0 ml, FEV1 by 39.5 ml, and peak expiratory flow (PEF) by 180.8 ml/s in children who were breastfed for at least 4 months.
In addition, although there was a trend toward higher FEV1 and higher PEF with increasing duration of breastfeeding, a statistically significant increase in lung volume was not seen in children who were breastfed for shorter durations (less than 4 months). The data also showed no evidence for effect modification by maternal history of asthma and allergy.
“Breastfeeding for at least 4 months enhances lung volume in children,” the authors write, adding that “the effect on airflow appears to be mediated by lung volume changes.”
They conclude: “Future studies need to elucidate the mechanisms that drive this phenomenon.”