Prolonged Breastfeeding may Increase Risk of Eczema

July 14, 2010

Breastfeeding children at 18 months may increase, not decrease, the risk of atopic dermatitis in infants.

Breastfeeding and delaying the introduction of solid foods has been shown to prevent atopic dermatitis (AD); however, after a certain point, it may do more harm than good.

According to research published in Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, breastfeeding children at 18 months may increase, not decrease, the risk of AD, a condition that develops in about 12% of infants.

In the study, Chao-Hua Chuang and colleagues at Chang Jung Christian University in Taiwan examined the data of 24,200 children from the Taiwan National Birth Registration database. They interviewed parents at six and 18 months, asking questions about smoking habits, allergies, and their level of education.

At 18 months, researchers found that 2,449 of 20,172 children (12%) had been diagnosed with AD, which correlates with what previous studies have found, according to an online report. A large number of children who were diagnosed before six months were excluded, as researchers feared parents might have altered the way their kids were fed after the diagnosis. Of the 18,773 children that remained, 1,050 (6%) were diagnosed with AD between the ages of 6 and 18 months.

After controlling for possible risk factors, Chuang and colleagues determined that “increased duration of breastfeeding seemed to increase the risk of AD at 18 months in children.” No significant effect, however, was found for delaying the introduction of solids on the risk of AD. They concluded that “there is no evidence of a protective effect of prolonged breastfeeding and a delayed introduction of solids against AD among children at age 18 months, and may even be a risk factor of AD.”