Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) have found that children with a family history of asthma or allergies may face significantly higher risk of persistent wheezing and asthma later in childhood when bottle-fed in the bed or crib before sleep time. These findings are published in the Dec. 2 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“For infants in a high-risk group, we found that when and how they are fed influence the onset of wheezing and asthma,” said Juan Celedon of BWH. “There is a significant relationship between the number of times children are bottle-fed in the crib or bed prior to sleep time and the occurrence of wheezing during their first five years.”
Nearly one in 13 children in America has asthma. The National Institutes of Health reports that the prevalence of asthma around the world has doubled in the past 15 years, increasing 160 percent among pre-school age children. Asthma is the third-leading cause of hospitalization among children under age 15 and accounts for more than 10 million missed school days annually.
Researchers found that bottle-feeding in the bed or crib before sleep time during the first year of life was a risk factor for asthma and recurrent wheezing at 5 years of age. It also appeared to be a risk factor for wheezing between the ages of 1 to 5 years. Children whose parents reported bottle-feeding in the bed or crib before sleep time on three occasions in the first year of life had a 50 percent higher risk of wheezing by age 5 compared with children who were not bottle-fed before sleep time in the bed or crib.
“Finding modifiable risks factors for wheezing in childhood is a key to asthma prevention,” said Celedon. He noted that avoiding large-volume liquid meals in the bed or crib before sleep time and avoiding placing a baby on his or her back immediately after bottle-feeding may reduce the risk of wheezing in early childhood.
The data revealed no relationship between breast-feeding in a child’s first year of life and increased asthma risk. The study followed 448 children with a family history of allergic diseases from birth to age 5. Through periodic telephone interviews with caretakers, the researchers gathered information on the children’s feeding routines and how often the children experienced episodes of wheezing.