From Our 2010 Archives
Breastfeeding 4-6 Months Lowers Babies' Illness Risk
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Exclusively Breastfed Babies Have Reduced Risk of Respiratory, Gastrointestinal Infections, Study Finds
Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD
June 21, 2010 -- Babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first four months of life and partially thereafter have a reduced risk of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, but six months on the breast alone is even better, new research indicates.
Researchers in the Netherlands analyzed questionnaires available for 4,164 mothers, looking at breastfeeding habits in the following six categories:
Then they looked at doctor-attended infections in the upper and lower respiratory tracts and the gastrointestinal system.
Among the findings:
"Exclusive breastfeeding until the age of four months and partially thereafter was associated with a significant reduction of respiratory and gastrointestinal morbidity in infants," the researchers report in the July print issue of Pediatrics, published online June 21. "Our findings support health-policy strategies to promote exclusive breastfeeding for at least four months but preferably six months in industrialized countries."
The findings are important because respiratory and gastrointestinal tract infections are the leading cause of illness in children.
The researchers found that when looking at duration of breastfeeding: 29% of infants were breastfed for less than four months; 25% were breastfed for four to six months; and 34% were breastfed for six months or more.
Most of the infants were deemed to have not been exclusively breastfed. Only 1.4% of infants were judged to have been breastfed exclusively for at least six months.
The researchers say their findings are in line with the World Health Organization's recommendation that infants be breastfed exclusively until at least 6 months old.
SOURCES: News release, American Academy of Pediatrics.