3. Breastfeeding Research, August-September 2014

Breastfeeding may reduce postpartum depression. A study of 14,000 mothers showed that women who breastfed their babies were at significantly lower risk of postnatal depression than those who did not. In particular, mothers who planned to breastfeed and who actually went on to breastfeed were around 50% less likely to become depressed than mothers who had not planned to, and who did not, breastfeed. Mothers who planned to breastfeed, but who did not go on to breastfeed, were over twice as likely to become depressed as mothers who had not planned to, and who did not, breastfeed.  This study shows that those mothers who want to breastfeed need lots of support. (“New Evidence on Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression: The Importance of Understanding Women’s Intentions,” Maternal and Child Health Journal, online August 2014)

Infant-feeding practices and prevalence of diarrhea and acute respiratory infection (ARI) were obtained from 6,068 mother-child dyads in 11 provinces of Vietnam in 2011. The study found that early initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding protects against diarrhea and ARI.  Sadly, only 20% of the babies 0-5 months were exclusively breastfed. (International Breastfeeding Journal  2014, 9:12  doi:10.1186/1746-4358-9-12;1 August 2014)

Two studies in the Pediatrics journal support the benefits of breastfeeding.  Nine months or more of breastfeeding reduced the risk of ear infections by 31%, of throat infections by 32% and of sinus infections by 53% compared to children not breastfed for a long period of time. The study included 1300 children all aged six.  Another study also examined six year olds and found that those breastfed for four or more months had about half the odds of developing a food allergy compare to children who were breastfed for a shorter period of time. The team noted that breastfeeding did not reduce the risk of developing allergies in children from high-risk populations, such as families with a history of allergies.  (“Infant Feeding and Long-Term Outcomes: Results From the Year 6 Follow-Up of Children in the Infant Feeding Practices Study II”, pp-51-53 and “Infant Feeding Practices and Reported Food Allergies at 6 Years of Age”, pp. 521-528, Journal of Pediatrics Vol. 134 No. Supplement; 1 September, 2014)

Breastfeeding mothers may also lose weight!  Researchers tracked the weight of 726 women from pregnancy to six years after giving birth.  Obese women who followed the recommendations to nurse exclusively for the first six months and to breastfeed for at least 12 months experienced a weight loss of 18 pounds after pregnancy.  This was compared to obese mothers who never breastfed. (Journal of Pediatrics, online September 2, 2014)

Black breastfeeding mothers may lower their risk for aggressive breast cancer.  Parous women had a 33% higher risk for ER-negative breast cancer than those who had never given birth, and a 37% higher risk for triple-negative breast cancer. However, breast-feeding lowered the risk for both ER-negative and triple-negative disease.  For every age category in the United States, the incidence of triple-negative breast cancer is higher in black women than in non-Hispanic white women.  Black women have a lower prevalence of breastfeeding.  Hopefully, more black mothers will be encouraged to breastfeed.  (Journal of the National Cancer Institute, online September 15, 2014)

Breastfeeding adds to brain power.  “Researchers compared the fatty acid profiles of breast milk from women in over two dozen countries with how well children from those same countries performed on academic tests. Their findings show that the amount of omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in a mother’s milk is the strongest predictor of test performance. It outweighs national income and the number of dollars spent per pupil in schools.” (“Linoleic and docosahexaenoic acids in human milk have opposite relationships with cognitive test performance in a sample of 28 countries,” (Journal of Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, online September 2014)
Sheila: This study should really be publicized!

The study concludes that “bed-sharing is inappropriate if parents consume alcohol, take drugs or smoke, or if the infant is pre-term.”  Sofa-sharing is not a safe alternative.  The researchers conclude: “The risk of bed-sharing and SIDS in the absence of these hazardous conditions appears to be minimal; more effort therefore needs to go into advising parents on the very real dangers associated with bed-sharing in these particular hazardous conditions.”  (“Bed-Sharing in the Absence of Hazardous Circumstances,” September 19, 2014; DOI: 1371/journal.pone.0107799)
Sheila: Bed-sharing information is available at NFPI links.

Every year one million babies die on the day they are born.  Brazil wanted to tackle this problem because exclusively breastfed children are also 14 times less likely to die in the first six months compared to non-breastfed children.  In many low-income countries, only 39% of children under six months of age are exclusively breastfed.  Since 1985, Brazil started a breast milk donation campaign and has created the largest network of breast milk donors in the world.  “After testing, sorting and pasteurizing, donated milk is often used for infants whose mothers are sick or unable to breastfeed and in hospital neonatal intensive care units, where breast milk can be fed through a tube. With over 150,000 donors, over 155,000 recipients and 214 bank locations, Brazil has created the largest network of breast milk donors in the world.”  It is now estimated that “more than 50 percent of Brazilian mothers exclusively breastfeed for the child’s first month of life, a figure nearly 35 percent higher than the breastfeeding rate in the United States. The results are tangible. Since the campaign’s inception in 1985, Brazil’s infant mortality rate has plummeted by more than two-thirds, from 63.2 deaths per 1,000 births to 19.6 deaths per 1,000 births.” (Elisabeth Epstein, “Brazil’s Inventive Solution to Save Newborns: Breast Milk Banks.” Huffington Post, September 25, 2014)

Sheila Kippley

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