Updated: Feb 25
Breastfeeding is already a major responsibility for mothers, but what if they’re also tackling asthma? The worries that can come out of making sure one’s asthma is well managed and breastfeeding can be a big feat. But there’s no need to worry, as it isn’t as intimidating to tackle as you think. Today, we’re talking to asthmatic mothers and laying out the basics that any mother with asthma needs to know.
What is asthma?
According to the CDC, asthma is a long-term lung disease, one of the most common diseases in both children and adults. Asthma can present itself as “wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing at night or early in the morning”(1).
What’s the connection between breastfeeding and asthma?
A mother suffering from asthma can be concerned about the effects of asthma on her ability to breastfeed, the effect of medications on her baby, and the possibility of her baby becoming asthmatic.
The University of Newcastle in Australia published a study to investigate if maternal asthma is associated with lung function in early life, concluding that maternal asthma is associated with “lower lung function in male babies”, which may have lifelong implications on “their lung function trajectories and future risk of wheezing and asthma”.(2)
Regardless of the hereditary risk, a mother can still work to reduce this risk and reduce the possibility of her rescue from asthma.
Can an asthmatic mother breastfeed her baby?
Yes! If a mother with asthma wants to, she can breastfeed her child quite easily as long as her condition is stable. In turn, breastfeeding will be quite easy as long as the proper precautions are taken.
What about asthma attacks?
To make sure you can breastfeed your baby, even during asthma attacks, it’s recommended to pump your breastmilk ahead of time and store it for future use. Asthma attacks can prevent a mother from properly breastfeeding, so taking the extra time to prepare milk will take away the stress of needing to feed your baby in the event of an asthma attack. Both the mother and baby will benefit from forward-thinking like this, making sure that if anything happens the baby can feed while the mother manages the attack and recovery with very little stress.
Does asthma affect how long a mother can breastfeed? Asthma does not affect the duration of breastfeeding. If the mother chooses to continue breastfeeding after the initial six months, she can easily do so, and her medication will not affect that. A study conducted in China showed that a longer duration of breastfeeding was “inversely associated with childhood asthma and allergic diseases”, reducing the risk of the child developing asthma in the future(3).
Is breastfeeding good for the baby of an asthmatic mother?
If anything, breastfeeding is the best thing an asthmatic mother can do for her baby! Breastmilk enhances the growth and maturation of a newborn’s lungs, numerous studies even go as far as to show that the lung function of formula-fed infants is significantly reduced compared to the lungs of breastfed infants.
Formula milk also lacks the benefits that modify lung development, increase total lung capacity, growth factors, and cytokines that influence the growth of respiratory alveoli (alveoli continue development after birth) (4)
According to a study conducted by the European Lung Foundation, children who had never been breastfed had an increased risk of wheezing, shortness of breath, dry cough, and persistent phlegm during their first 4 years, compared to children who were breastfed for more than 6 months. (5)
In the end, it is evident that breastfeeding is the best choice to decrease the possibility, the risk of the baby developing asthma, and the most appropriate option for the mother in terms of ease and safety for her and her baby. Most importantly, the support of both family members and medical professionals in making sure an asthmatic mother can breastfeed their child without any trouble will make their journey and the child’s growth a lot smoother.
From the Mommy Zone team, we are always here for you.
de Gouveia Belinelo P, Collison AM, Murphy VE, et.al (2020) Maternal asthma is associated with reduced lung function in male infants in a combined analysis of the BLT and BILD. Paediatric lung disease.
Hu, Y., Chen, Y., Liu, S. et al. (2021) Breastfeeding duration modified the effects of neonatal and familial risk factors on childhood asthma and allergy. Respiratory Research.
Guilbert, T. W., Stern, D. A., Morgan, W. J., Martinez, F. D., & Wright, A. L. (2007) Effect of breastfeeding on lung function in childhood and modulation by maternal asthma and atopy. American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine.