Eczema in children is not prevented by breastfeeding, scientists have concluded.
In a large-scale study conducted across international borders on tens of thousands of children, no protective effect against the disease was detected and no evidence was found that exclusive breastfeeding for a minimum of four months stops the skin condition from developing.
Scientists at the University of Nottingham, the University of Ulm in Germany and King’s College in London studied 51,119 children aged eight-12 from 21 countries.
They found eczema rates were the same for all children, regardless of how long they were breastfed and regardless of whether people were in wealthier or poorer countries.
The researchers say that guidelines for new mothers should be rewritten to take account of their findings.
Earlier research implied that breastfeeding protected children against eczema. The Department of Health for example says exclusive breastfeeding for six months will prevent eczema, as does the World Health Organisation.
Dr Carsten Flohr at King’s College 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.”
- Flohr S, et al. Lack of evidence for a protective effect of prolonged breastfeeding on childhood eczema: lessons from the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) Phase Two. BJD 2011; Advance online publication.