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26-07-2010 | Respiratory | Article

Exclusive breastfeeding reduces early risk for respiratory infections


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MedWire News: Exclusive, prolonged breastfeeding is associated with reduced risks for respiratory and gastrointestinal infections in children, results from a Dutch study show.

The findings, published in the journal Pediatrics, support guidelines promoting the exclusive breastfeeding of infants for the first 6 months of life, say Henriëtte Moll (Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam) and team.

The researchers studied data on 4164 infants and their mothers participating in the Generation R Study. This is a population-based prospective cohort study from fetal life until young adulthood, which is designed to identify early environmental and genetic determinants of growth, development, and health.

The duration of exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 months of life was compared with the occurrence of upper and lower respiratory tract infections (RTIs) and gastrointestinal infections (GIs) until the age of 12 months.

Of all the infants, 12% were never breastfed, 29% were breastfed for less than 4 months, 25% for 4 to 6 months, and 34% for 6 months or longer.

After accounting for potential confounding factors, such as maternal education, ethnicity, smoking, gestational age, birth weight, siblings, and day care attendance, the researchers found that infants who had been exclusively breastfed for the first 4 months of life and partially breastfed thereafter had significantly lower risks for upper and lower RTIs and GIs until the age of 6 months than those who had never been breastfed, at odds ratios (ORs) of 0.65, 0.50, and 0.41, respectively.

These children also had a reduced risk for lower RTIs between the ages of 7 and 12 months compared with those who had never been breastfed, at an OR of 0.46.

Infants who had been breastfed for 6 months or longer had similarly lower risks for upper and lower RTIs and GIs during the fist 6 months of life, at ORs of 0.62, 0.61, and 0.45, respectively, and a lower risk for RTIs between 7 and 12 months of age (OR=0.56) compared with those who had never been breastfed.

Moll and team conclude: "We consider that our results are in line with the World Health Organization recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding until infants are 6 months old instead of 4 months, and our results support current health-policy strategies that promote exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months in industrialized countries."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Mark Cowen

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