Duration of Breastfeeding and Future of Development of Asthma and Atopy: A Literature Review

Cardiff, Nicole, Tara Anderson, and Joyce Conley

Duration of Breastfeeding and Future of Development of Asthma and Atopy: A Literature Review

Cardiff, Nicole* and Anderson, Tara*, Conley, Joyce PhD. RN, Faculty University of Detroit Mercy, College of Health Professions


Statement of the Problem

The primary objective of this literature review was to determine if the duration of breastfeeding has an effect on the development of asthma and atopic disorders in children.  For the purpose of this review, atopic disorders included eczema and hay fever.

Clinical Question

For children ages 0-15 years, does longer duration of breastfeeding reduce the future risk of asthma and atopy compared to those who are breastfed for shorter duration?

Search of Evidence

A thorough search of PubMed, Medline, ScienceDirect, and the CINHAL (ebsco) databases produced 55 articles available in full text pertaining to the clinical question. A total of 16 articles were published within the last five years, 6 of which were deemed appropriate for this review.  The excluded articles pertained to maternal allergy or asthma rather than disorders of children.

Critical Appraisal

The review of the studies found conflicting results for the prevalence of asthma and atopy among children who were breastfed.  Two studies reported prolonged breastfeeding to be associated with lower rates of asthma and wheeze. Three studies found no effect of breastfeeding on asthma. The majority of the studies found a reduction in eczema among children who were breastfed for prolonged periods. One study found reduced rates of atopic disorders other than eczema when breastfed at least four months.

Clinical Practice Implications

Currently The American Academy of Pediatrics and The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for at least six months. Their recommendations are based on improved health for the baby, however research is inconclusive on whether breastfeeding is protective of asthma and allergies in children. Based on the conflicting findings of the current studies, future research should focus on various breastfeeding durations and the development of asthma and atopy.