Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of jepicomhJournal of Epidemiology and Community HealthVisit this articleSubmit a manuscriptReceive email alertsContact usBMJ
J Epidemiol Community Health. 1983 June; 37(2): 95–99.
PMCID: PMC1052269

Breast feeding, eczema, asthma, and hayfever.


The association of breast feeding with rates of atopic illness during the first five years of life was assessed in a national study of 13 135 children studied during the first week and at age 5 years. Eczema was reported more often in children who had been breast fed; this relationship persisted even after allowance was made for social and family factors influencing the likelihood both of breast feeding and of eczema; the other factors most significantly associated with rates of eczema were parental history of eczema or asthma and advantaged family socioeconomic status. A similar, but less pronounced, positive association of breast feeding with reported hayfever became non-significant after adjustment for intervening factors. Rates of reported asthma were not influenced by breast feeding. "Any wheezing" including asthma was reported more often in children who had not been breast fed, but this association disappeared after adjustment for parental asthma and maternal smoking. Breast feeding does not appear to protect against these atopic diseases. The positive association with reported eczema might relate to accuracy of diagnosis or to associated influences not considered in the analysis; alternatively, it might be due to (recent) environmental contaminants crossing in breast milk, causing eczema in the child.

Full text

Full text is available as a scanned copy of the original print version. Get a printable copy (PDF file) of the complete article (762K), or click on a page image below to browse page by page. Links to PubMed are also available for Selected References.

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Matthew DJ, Taylor B, Norman AP, Turner MW. Prevention of eczema. Lancet. 1977 Feb 12;1(8007):321–324. [PubMed]
  • Chandra RK. Prospective studies of the effect of breast feeding on incidence of infection and allergy. Acta Paediatr Scand. 1979 Sep;68(5):691–694. [PubMed]
  • Saarinen UM, Kajosaari M, Backman A, Siimes MA. Prolonged breast-feeding as prophylaxis for atopic disease. Lancet. 1979 Jul 28;2(8135):163–166. [PubMed]
  • Kaufman HS, Frick OL. Prevention of asthma. Clin Allergy. 1981 Nov;11(6):549–553. [PubMed]
  • Juto P, Möller C, Engberg S, Björkstén B. Influence of type of feeding on lymphocyte function and development of infantile allergy. Clin Allergy. 1982 Jul;12(4):409–416. [PubMed]
  • Halpern SR, Sellars WA, Johnson RB, Anderson DW, Saperstein S, Reisch JS. Development of childhood allergy in infants fed breast, soy, or cow milk. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1973 Mar;51(3):139–151. [PubMed]
  • Kjellman NI, Johansson SG. Soy versus cow's milk in infants with a biparental history of atopic disease: development of atopic disease and immunoglobulins from birth to 4 years of age. Clin Allergy. 1979 Jul;9(4):347–358. [PubMed]
  • Hide DW, Guyer BM. Clinical manifestations of allergy related to breast and cows' milk feeding. Arch Dis Child. 1981 Mar;56(3):172–175. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Kramer MS, Moroz B. Do breast-feeding and delayed introduction of solid foods protect against subsequent atopic eczema? J Pediatr. 1981 Apr;98(4):546–550. [PubMed]
  • Gordon RR, Noble DA, Ward AM, Allen R. Immunoglobulin E and the eczema-asthma syndrome in early childhood. Lancet. 1982 Jan 9;1(8263):72–74. [PubMed]
  • Fergusson DM, Horwood LJ, Beautrais AL, Shannon FT, Taylor B. Eczema and infant diet. Clin Allergy. 1981 Jul;11(4):325–331. [PubMed]
  • Fergusson DM, Horwood LJ, Shannon FT. Risk factors in childhood eczema. J Epidemiol Community Health. 1982 Jun;36(2):118–122. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • GLASER J, JOHNSTONE DE. Prophylaxis of allergic disease in the newborn. J Am Med Assoc. 1953 Oct 17;153(7):620–622. [PubMed]
  • Johnstone DE, Dutton AM. Dietary prophylaxis of allergic disease in children. N Engl J Med. 1966 Mar 31;274(13):715–719. [PubMed]
  • Brown EB, Josephson BM, Levine HS, Rosen M. A prospective study of allergy in a pediatric population. The role of heredity in the incidence of allergies, and experience with milk-free diet in the newborn. Am J Dis Child. 1969 Jun;117(6):693–698. [PubMed]
  • Dannaeus A, Johansson SG, Foucard T. Clinical and immunological aspects of food allergy in childhood. II. Development of allergic symptoms and humoral immune response to foods in infants of atopic mothers during the first 24 months of life. Acta Paediatr Scand. 1978 Jul;67(4):497–504. [PubMed]
  • Williams H, McNicol KN. Prevalence, natural history, and relationship of wheezy bronchitis and asthma in children. An epidemiological study. Br Med J. 1969 Nov 8;4(5679):321–325. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Leeder SR, Corkhill RT, Irwig LM, Holland WW. Influence of family factors on asthma and wheezing during the first five years of life. Br J Prev Soc Med. 1976 Dec;30(4):213–218. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Breastfeeding amd eczema/asthma. Lancet. 1982 Apr 17;1(8277):910–911. [PubMed]
  • Rogan WJ, Bagniewska A, Damstra T. Pollutants in breast milk. N Engl J Med. 1980 Jun 26;302(26):1450–1453. [PubMed]
  • Gerrard JW. Allergy in breast fed babies to ingredients in breast milk. Ann Allergy. 1979 Feb;42(2):69–72. [PubMed]
  • Warner JO. Food allergy in fully breast-fed infants. Clin Allergy. 1980 Mar;10(2):133–136. [PubMed]
  • Fergusson DM, Horwood LJ, Shannon FT, Taylor B. Breast-feeding, gastrointestinal and lower respiratory illness in the first two years. Aust Paediatr J. 1981 Sep;17(3):191–195. [PubMed]
  • Kjellman NI. Predictive value of high IgE levels in children. Acta Paediatr Scand. 1976 Jul;65(4):465–471. [PubMed]
  • Taylor B, Wadsworth J, Golding J, Butler N. Breast-feeding, bronchitis, and admissions for lower-respiratory illness and gastroenteritis during the first five years. Lancet. 1982 May 29;1(8283):1227–1229. [PubMed]
  • Midwinter RE, Moore WJ, Soothill JF, Turner MW, Colley JR. Infant feeding and atopy. Lancet. 1982 Feb 6;1(8267):339–339. [PubMed]
  • Taylor R, Wright DS, Watson H. Chest pain of uncertain origin in patients admitted to a coronary care unit. Lancet. 1982 Apr 17;1(8277):911–911. [PubMed]
  • Kjellman NI, Johansson SG. IgE and atopic allergy in newborns and infants with a family history of atopic disease. Acta Paediatr Scand. 1976 Sep;65(5):601–607. [PubMed]

Articles from Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health are provided here courtesy of BMJ Publishing Group