Breastfeeding Research: August and September 2017

Babies who were exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months were less likely to have teeth alignment issues such as open bites, crossbites, and overbites, than those exclusively breast fed for shorter lengths of time or not at all. Journal of American Dental Association, August 2017.

The impact of maternal breastfeeding on the mental acuity of 11,544 children born in the United Kingdom in 2000–01 was studied. Using data from British Ability Scale tests, the researcher found the positive effect of breastfeeding was two to two-and-a-half times greater for children with the lowest test scores, compared to those with the highest. What’s more, he reported that the impact was larger for those who were breastfed longer. Social Science & Medicine, August 2017.

Breastfeeding is a vital part of providing every child with the healthiest start to life. It is a baby’s first vaccine and the best source of nutrition. It can bolster brain development. Breastfeeding could save more than 520,000 children’s lives annually under the age of 5 who die of preventable illnesses and could generate up to $300 billion in economic gains.  WHO and UNICEF recommend mothers breastfeed infants within the first hour of birth, exclusively for six months and continue breastfeeding, while adding complementary foods, until the child is at least 2-years-old. Breastfeeding has a host of health benefits, most notably improving a baby’s immunity and protecting infants from potentially deadly diseases. WHO and UNICEF, August 1, 2017.

Researchers found an 8 percent reduced risk of endometriosis for every 3 additional months of breastfeeding per pregnancy. This figure was even higher (14 percent) for women who exclusively breastfed for those months. They also found that women who had breastfed for a total of 36 months or more during their reproductive lifetime had a 40 percent reduced risk of endometriosis compared with women who had never breastfed. British Medical Journal, August 29, 2017.

Breastfeeding nearly halves the risk of an asthma attack. The researchers analysed 960 children aged between four and 12 years old who regularly use asthma medication. Breastfeeding reduces asthma attacks by 45%. Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, September 6, 2017.

A beneficial bacterium found in breastfed babies works by reducing inflammation that leads to necrotizing enterocolitis—a disease that destroys intestinal tissue and kills 20 to 30 percent of premature infants who get the disease. The findings support the idea that human breast milk is crucial to controlling the inflammation that can lead to necrotizing enterocolitis. Journal of Clinical Investigation, September 25, 2017.

Sheila Kippley

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