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Benefits of Breastfeeding

As the Coalition begins to tell its story, it will need to offer persuasive evidence about the
benefits of breastfeeding that are understandable to a variety of audiences (including
those who do not know medical terminology). Recent data provided from the Agency
for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) in April 2007, provides compelling
arguments in understandable language about the benefits of breastfeeding for children.

Benefits of Breastfeeding for Children

Ear Infections
„ Results based on five studies
„ Children who were ever breastfed had 25% fewer ear infections than those who were
fed only formula
„ Children breastfed exclusively for 3-6 months had 50% fewer ear infections than those
exclusively fed formula for the same duration

Eczema (skin disease)

„ Eighteen studies were conducted
„ Results show exclusive breastfeeding for at least 3 months reduces the risk of eczema
by almost ½ in infants with a family history of eczema

Gastroenteritis (diarrhea and vomiting)

„ Fourteen studies were conducted
„ Results show that babies with any history of breastfeeding have 1/3 the chance of
developing gastrointestinal infection than those never breastfed

Lower Respiratory Tract Infection

„ Seven studies were conducted
„ Results indicate that infants exclusively breastfed for 4 months or more (compared to
formula fed) have a 72% reduction in risk of hospitalization for lower respiratory
infection (including RSV)

„ Nine studies (1983-2004)
„ Breastfed infants with family history of asthma are 1/3 less likely to develop asthma
before the age of 10. It is unclear whether this association changes for older children.

Cognitive Development and Cardiovascular Disease

„ Results are equivocal in terms of cognitive development with research difficult due to
multiple confounding factors.
„ Association between breastfeeding and adult cholesterol levels has been suggested, but
more study is needed.

„ Studies looked at infants who were ever breastfed, but did not look at the differences

between some breastfeeding vs exclusive breastfeeding.

„ These studies show about a ¼ reduction in the odds of becoming overweight/obese as
adults if ever breastfed.

Type 1 and 2 Diabetes

„ Results based on seven studies
„ Breastfeeding for greater than 3 months results in decreased risk of type 1 diabetes
(insulin dependant/childhood onset) by about 1/3 to 1/4 that of the risk in those never
breastfed or weaned earlier.
„ Comparing ever breastfed to never breastfed, the odds of developing adult onset
diabetes in the breastfed individuals was reduced by over 1/3.

Childhood Leukemia
„ Based on ten studies
„ There is about a 1/3 decreased risk for ALL and AML (the 2 most common childhood
leukemias) with 6 months exclusive breastfeeding

Sudden Infant Death

„ Seven studies
„ Comparing ever breastfed to never breastfed infants, results show that breastfed babies
are about 40% less likely to die of sudden infant death.

Preterm Infant Outcomes

„ Four studies
„ Necrotizing Enterocolitis (death of parts of a preterm infant’s intestine.): Babies
receiving breast milk have a 60% decrease in the risk of developing NEC compared to
formula fed infants

The following quote from Breastfeeding Support: Prenatal Care through the First Year,
released in April 2007 by the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal
Nurses (AWHONN) provides additional evidence to support the health benefits of
breastfeeding for the premature child.

“All babies benefit from breastfeeding, but preterm infants may derive even
greater benefits including a reduction in the incidence of certain neonatal
diseases… evidence suggests that preterm infants' breathing is less stressed
during sucking bursts for breastfeeding sessions than during bottle feeding
sessions. Preterm mother's milk is usually better suited for the preterm infant
than either mature or term human milk because it contains higher concentrations
of essential nutrients. Preterm infants who are fed preterm mother's milk may
also have shorter hospital stays.”

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There are also health benefits for mothers who breastfeed. The Agency for Healthcare
Research and Quality (AHRQ) released the following data in April 2007.

Benefits of Breastfeeding for Moms

Return to Pre-pregnancy weight and Osteoporosis
„ Three studies
„ Overall effect of breastfeeding was not statistically significant (3 studies) in relation to
postpartum weight loss.
„ There was no difference in bone density or bone loss in postmenopausal women
despite breastfeeding or never breastfeeding.

Maternal Type 2 Diabetes

„ Two studies
„ A longer duration of lifetime breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of
developing adult onset diabetes among mothers without a history of gestational
diabetes. The risk is decreased by about 10% for each year of breastfeeding.
„ No association with reduced risk in moms with gestational diabetes history,
breastfeeding or not.

Post-partum Depression
„ Six studies
„ Studies show an association between not breastfeeding and early weaning with
increased risk of postpartum depression.
„ It is unclear which is cause, and which is effect at this point. Documentation of
baseline mental health will be needed in future studies.

Breast Cancer
„ Six studies
„ Risk of breast cancer is reduced in women who breastfeed.
„ This protection is “dose-related” and risk is further reduced with each year of

Ovarian Cancer
„ Fifteen studies
„ Breastfeeding for a cumulative length of 12 months or longer was associated with 1/3-
1/2 decreased risk of ovarian cancer

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