Many parents look forward to when their baby turns 4-months-old to add cereal and solid foods to the diet. While feeding your baby carrots and peas may be fun, it could increase the risk of asthma. A new study conducted by researchers in the Netherlands finds babies fed exclusively breast milk until 6 months of age are less likely to suffer from asthma symptoms. The research was published in the European Respiratory Journal. The study is a small part of the Generation R Study. Generation R follows children born in urban cities through adulthood. The aim of the study is to find a possible connection between early infant and childhood behaviors and health issues later in life. 

This study is not the first to examine the link between breastfeeding and asthma, but it is the first to establish a connection between the length of time an infant is exclusively breastfed and impact of that time on asthma. Children in the study who were given breast milk in addition to milk products within the first six months of life developed symptoms of asthma earlier. 

Researchers collected data for the study from more than 5,000 children. The questionnaire asked parents to reveal whether or not children were breastfed, how long they were breastfed and when other foods and liquids were introduced to the diet. Children in the study who were never breastfed were at the highest risk for asthma or asthma-like symptoms, such as wheezing. These children were also at higher risk of dry coughing and phlegm development. 

While researchers noted current guidelines suggest infants be exclusively breast fed for the first six months in industrialized nations, many parents continue to add cereal, milk products and foods after four months. Researchers are hoping the study will reiterate the importance of feeding education for new parents and a greater push toward breastfeeding infants for at least 6 months before adding other liquids and foods to the diet. 

Source: European Respiratory Journal. A.M.M. Sonnenschein-van der Voort, V.V.W. Jaddoe, R.J.P. van der Valk, S.P. Willemsen, A. Hofman, H.A. Moll, J.C. de Jongste, and L. Duijts. 20 July, 2011.