Clin Exp Pediatr.  2020 Apr;63(4):135-140. 10.3345/kjp.2019.00402.

Positive association of breastfeeding on respiratory syncytial virus infection in hospitalized infants: a multicenter retrospective study

  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Nowon Eulji Medical Center, Eulji University, Seoul, Korea
  • 2Department of Pediatrics, Hanyang University Seoul Hospital, Seoul, Korea
  • 3Department of Pediatrics, Inje University Ilsan Paik Hospital, Goyang, Korea
  • 4Department of Pediatrics, Inje University Busan Paik Hospital, Busan, Korea


Breastfeeding reportedly reduces the overall frequency of infections. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the most common respiratory pathogen in infants, involves recurrent wheezing and has a pathogenic mechanism related to airway structural damage. Purpose: This study aimed to investigate whether breastfeeding has a beneficial effect against RSV-induced respiratory infection compared to formula feeding among infants in Korea.
We retrospectively reviewed the medical records of infants under 1 year of age who were admitted with RSV infection between January 2016 and February 2018 at the department of pediatrics of 4 hospitals. We investigated the differences in clinical parameters such as cyanosis, chest retraction, combined infection, fever duration, oxygen use, oxygen therapy duration, intensive care unit (ICU) admission, and corticosteroid treatment of exclusive breast milk feeding (BMF), artificial milk formula fed (AMF), and mixed feeding (MF) groups.
Among the 411 infants included in our study, 94, 161, and 156 were included in the BMF, MF, and AMF groups, respectively. The rates of oxygen therapy were significantly different among the BMF (4.3%), MF (8.1%), and AMF (13.5 %) groups (P=0.042). The odds ratios (ORs) for oxygen therapy was significantly higher in the AMF group than in the BMF group (adjusted OR, 3.807; 95% confidence interval, 1.22–11.90; P=0.021). The ICU admission rate of the BMF group (1.1%) was lower than that of the MF (3.5%) and AMF (4.5%) groups; however, the dissimilarity was not statistically significant (P=0.338).
The severity of RSV infection requiring oxygen therapy was lower in the BMF than the AMF group. This protective role of human milk on RSV infection might decrease the need for oxygen therapy suggesting less airway damage.


Breast feeding; Respiratory syncytial virus infection; Infant
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