Hey Mom, You Can Breastfeed Even With Asthma!

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Breastfeeding is very important for the health of mothers and their babies, for several reasons. For example, those who were not breastfed were noted to have higher risks of infection, SIDS and obesity. Moms who don’t breastfeed are prone to develop breast and ovarian cancer. Allergic diseases like asthma are common among children and in the past few years, there has been a rise in the numbers of these conditions.

Moms with asthma often wonder if they could breastfeed or not. Most of the concerns are related to asthma drugs being taken while nursing the child. On the other hand, they do not realize that breast milk contains more antibodies and a lot of evidence suggest that exclusive breastfeeding, especially during the first few months of life, can serve as protection for their baby from developing asthma.

Benefits of Breastfeeding for Baby

Breast milk is very important for a child’s developing immune system.

Aside from passive immunity, breast milk also actively stimulates a baby’s immune system. The transfer of different environmental and potential dietary allergens through milk likely helps babies develop tolerance to such triggers.

As mentioned earlier, breast milk is perfectly designed to suit your child’s needs. It contains immune properties not present in any other kind of milk, which can help protect your baby from several kinds of infections. It likewise has special fatty acids that promote brain development.

Moms Benefit from Breastfeeding Too

Breastfeeding moms have less risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers. Hip fractures are rare conditions too as compared to those who did not breastfeed. Weight loss is faster. Most importantly, breastfeeding serves as a special bonding moment between mom and baby.

Researches Approving Breastfeeding Among Asthmatic Moms

Several studies have shown that exclusive breastfeeding, meaning no formula milk is given, for at least 3 months can help prevent your baby from developing asthma and other types of allergy. This protective effect is said to be greater for moms who have a history of atopy in the family as compared to those who were perfectly healthy.

As per British scientists, breastfeeding can help promote the development of stronger lungs. In a study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, experts checked on around 1,500 kids from birth to ages 8-14. Their parents provided a complete information on breastfeeding history when their kids were 1 year old. Tests were conducted to assess lung function.

The study shows that the longer the kids were breastfed, the better they performed on the tests. Kids who have asthmatic moms and were breastfed for 4 months or longer also did well in the tests. This strongly suggests that breastfeeding can help lower the risk of asthma.

In another study conducted in New Zealand, a group of researchers led by Karen Silvers also followed babies from birth. However, they did not test lung function. Instead, they asked the parents of kids’ age 6 years old if they have ever been diagnosed with asthma or had episodes of wheezing in the past year. With data of more than 1000 children, 200 of which with asthma during their last visit, experts found that every month of exclusive breastfeeding was tied to a 9% decrease in asthma risk. This was published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

These findings are reassuring for new moms with asthma. Like other moms, they are now encouraged to breastfeed. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding from birth for up to 2 years of age or longer.

In a research done by Verhasselt in 2010, they found out that immune responses induced to babies will play a role in the development of immune-mediated conditions like allergies. It will be a decisive factor to their adult responses to these triggers.  Maternal history and sensitization to common food and environmental antigens are believed to be passed on to a baby through breast milk. This may help reduce the risk of asthma.

New Findings Are Still Controversial

Dr. Guilbert, a pediatric pulmonologist from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison is happy but not satisfied with such new findings. According to her, it is still controversial whether or not moms with asthma can pass on any risk to their child by breastfeeding. None of the researches that were done can prove the cause and effect one way or the other. Also, samples were collected from different areas with different diets and environmental exposures. There are still a lot of factors to consider. You have to make sure that your baby will not be exposed to other triggers like viral infections or house dust mites.

Since no evidence is strong enough to prove such worry and there are just too many benefits that breastfeeding can convey to a baby, moms should never stop breastfeeding.

Is It Safe to Take Asthma Drugs While Breastfeeding?

The decision whether to continue taking asthma drugs or not would depend on the severity of your condition and how well the drugs you are taking is controlling your symptoms. Generally, there have been few studies investigating the effects of taking asthma drugs while breastfeeding. It is thought that most of them enter the breast milk in small amounts and even if they are not known to be harmful to babies, you have to avoid them as much as possible.

If cannot be avoided, aim to control flare-ups while using the lowest effective dosages. If possible, choose medicines that are less likely to have low concentrations in breast milk. You can check this with your doctor.

As per the Australian Asthma Handbook, if you badly need systemic corticosteroids, take oral prednisolone, 37.5-50 mg, once every morning for 5-10 days. It is best to feed the baby just before each daily dose and avoid feeding again within 4 hours after intake. Moms can easily store milk now using milk bags and bottles. So pump during safe hours.

Visit a doctor if you feel like you’ll have an attack. He or she will know what is best for your condition and the baby.

More Tips for New Breastfeeding Moms

Breastfeeding is a skill that can be learned through time. It is not always successful at first try but you and your baby will get it right with patience and constant practice. Some moms give up trying to breastfeed their babies because they are too worried that they might not be getting enough supply during the learning and establishing processes.

First, you have to make sure that you are on the right latching position. It can be normal that at first, you’ll only produce fewer ounces of milk. Do not worry. More milk will start to flow if there is regular latching. You may also try taking lactation treats that can help boost your milk supply. There are so many options to choose from. You can have it in a form of a pill, cookies, drinks, and more.

If you are still having trouble breastfeeding your baby, you can consult an expert like a midwife or a maternal and child health nurse.

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