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Breastfeeding reduces chance of asthma

Breastfeeding brings yet another benefit to children, a new report has found, it can reduce the chances of them developing asthma.

Those who are not breastfed are up to 50 per cent more likely to exhibit asthmatic symptoms than those who are, according to a study of more than 5,000 children.

Young children never breastfed were 50 per cent more likely to have persistent phlegm and 40 per cent cent more likely to wheeze regularly.

They also tended to suffer more from shortness of breath and a dry cough in the first four years of life.

Those fed exclusively breastmilk for the first four months of life showed the lowest incidence of asthmatic symptoms.

Feeding them formula milk or solids alongside breastmilk in the first four months increased the chances slightly, found researchers at Erasmus Medical Centre in The Netherlands.

Breastfeeding could cut the chance of asthma by reducing the number of serious colds and flu virus infections - those which affect the lungs - found the authors of the report, published in the European Respiratory Journal on Thursday.

Previous studies have shown that breastfeeding cuts the risk of infections in the first six months of life.

Others have found it cuts the chance of childhood obesity and - more controversially - can lead to more intelligent and better behaved offspring.

The Dutch study followed 5,368 up to the age of four. Their mothers were asked about how they fed them as babies.

Dr Agnes Sonnenschein-van der Voort, the lead author, said: "These results support current health policy strategies that promote exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months in industrialised countries.

"Further studies are needed to explore the protective effect of breastfeeding on the various types of asthma in later life."

Department of Health policy remains that babies should be exclusively breastfed until six months, which follows global World Health Organisation guidelines. However, there is some evidence that slowly introducing solids from four months could be beneficial.

Less than one per cent of babies in Britain are exclusively breastfed up to six months

© Telegraph.co.uk