(RxWiki News) Breastfeeding for the first six months of life is recommended by the National Institutes of Health and most doctors. Babies who are breastfed gain vital immunities, are less likely to become obese, and are protected against common childhood illnesses and infections.
But according to new worldwide evidence, the protections of breastfeeding do not extend to lowering the risk of eczema for an infant.
"Breastfeeding is important, but it doesn't prevent eczema."
Researchers based at universities in England and Germany studied data from more than 50,000 children aged eight to 12, across 21 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America. In the largest research project of this type ever undertaken, scientists gathered breastfeeding information and examined the babies for eczema and several common environmental allergens.
They found that babies who were exclusively breastfed for four months or longer were just as likely to develop eczema as those who were weaned earlier, and these findings were similar across the globe. Most Western countries have recommended prolonged breastfeeding as a means of reducing the risk of childhood eczema.
Although breastfeeding remains important in providing a baby with many other vital protections and health benefits, reducing eczema does not appear to be one of them.
Dr. Carsten Flohr of King's College London, one of the primary research universities, noted that while there was a small protective effect of breastfeeding on severe eczema in affluent countries, no evidence was found that it protected against eczema to any great effect in either developed or developing nations.
Flohr pointed out that this study does not change the recommendation of breast milk as the most important nutrition early in life. The findings were published in the August 2011 issue of the British Journal of Dermatology.