There is no evidence that exclusive breast-feeding for four or more months provides protection against childhood eczema, according to a study published online Aug. 24 in the British Journal of Dermatology.
Carsten Flohr, Ph.D., from the St. Thomas Hospital and King's College in the United Kingdom, and colleagues examined the effect of exclusive breast-feeding on childhood eczema. A total of 51,119 children aged 8 to 12 years, from 21 countries were randomly selected. Questionnaires were used to collect information from parents on eczema and breast-feeding. Children underwent skin prick testing and were examined for flexural eczema.
The investigators found a small increase in the risk of reported 'eczema ever' correlated with 'breast-feeding ever' and breast-feeding for less than six months (pooled adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.11 and 1.10, respectively). No significant correlation was found for reported 'eczema ever' and breast-feeding for more than six months. Similar risk estimates were found for exclusive breast-feeding for less than two, two to four, and more than four months, for eczema symptoms in the past 12 months, and eczema on skin examination. Breast-feeding did confer a risk reduction in sleep disturbed eczema (pooled aOR, 0.71), but the effect was lost when children had been breast-fed for more than four months. Allergic sensitization and a history of maternal allergic disease did not affect these findings.
"Although there was a protective effect of ever having been breast-fed on more severe disease, we found no evidence that exclusive breast-feeding for four months or longer protects against eczema," the authors write.
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