Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Breast-feeding and respiratory syncytial virus infection.

Br Med J 1980; 281 doi: (Published 18 October 1980) Cite this as: Br Med J 1980;281:1034
  1. C R Pullan,
  2. G L Toms,
  3. A J Martin,
  4. P S Gardner,
  5. J K Webb,
  6. D R Appleton


    The pattern of breast-feeding in 127 infants admitted to hospital with respiratory syncytial virus infection was compared with that in 503 age-matched controls. Thirty per cent of children with infection had been breast-fed compared with 49% of controls. The approximate relative risk of being admitted to hospital with respiratory syncytial virus infection if not breast-fed was 2.2. Several other factors were also considered, including an assessment of maternal care and home environment; the mother's age, marital state, and smoking habits; the number of siblings; and gestation. Adverse factors were all associated with an increased risk of admission with infection, but breast-feeding still appeared to provide protection after controlling for these other factors in turn. These findings provide further support for encouraging mothers to breast-feed their infants and should prompt further studies into the immune status of mothers and into the nature of the protective factors in their breast milk.