Breast feeding for a longer period can lead to a skin disorder called eczema in babies, according to researchers from Chang Jung Christian University and other institutions in Taiwan.

Eczema, which is medically known as atopic dermatitis, is an inflammatory, constantly deteriorating, but non-contagious skin disorder. Earlier research had suggested that extended breastfeeding and postponing the introduction of solid foods may have advantages for babies.

Taiwanese researchers studied data from these earlier studies involving 20,172 children and found 2,449 of them were diagnosed with eczema by the time they were 18 months old. The study then sought to exclude those babies affected with the skin disease before they were months old.

The researchers at the Chang Jung Christian University found that among the remaining 18,773 children, 1,050 (almost six percent) were diagnosed with the skin disease. And these babies were aged between six to 18 months.

Besides controlling other risk factors that could possibly lead to eczema like parents’ allergies and pets, mold, and exposure to second hand smoke in the home, the researchers also learnt the exact time when the child was introduced to solid foods.

After analysing all the risk factors, they came to the conclusion that longer breastfeeding did not actually protect against the skin condition, as thought of earlier. On the contrary, the practice of prolonged breast-feeding appeared to have increased the odds that a child will suffer eczema by the time she is 18 months old.

Moreover, delay in initiating solid foods in child’s diet did not apparently bring any changes in the risk of development of the skin condition, the researchers said but emphasized that these findings do not mandate changing breastfeeding practices.

For infants after four to six months of age, there are insufficient data to support a protective effect of any dietary intervention for the development of atopic disease,’’ says the research report that appeared online in the journal Pediatric Allergy and Immunology.