A global study has found that there is no clear evidence to support that exclusive breastfeeding for four months or longer protects against childhood eczema. Hitherto, breastfeeding was considered as an important strategy to prevent the development of eczema and other allergic diseases in children.
The largest worldwide study on the association between breastfeeding, time of weaning and eczema in children, concluded that children who were exclusively breastfed for four months or longer were as likely to develop eczema as children who were weaned earlier.
The researchers, based at King's College London, The University of Nottingham and the University of Ulm, Germany, looked at data from 51,119 children aged 8 to 12, in 21 countries across Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia.
The researchers found no evidence for a protective effect of breastfeeding and delayed weaning on eczema risk in both developed and developing countries, in keeping with other more recent studies, suggesting that the current breastfeeding guidelines with regard to eczema need to reviewed.
Dr Carsten Flohr, one of the researchers based at King's College London, said: "Although there was a small protective effect of breastfeeding per se on severe eczema in affluent countries, we found no evidence that exclusive breastfeeding for four months or longer protects against eczema in either developed or developing nations. We feel that the UK breastfeeding guidelines with regard to eczema should therefore be reviewed. Further studies are now required to explore how and when solids should be introduced alongside breastfeeding to aid protection against eczema and other allergic diseases."
The study has been published online in the British Journal of Dermatology (BJD).