"We found that babies who received an additional two months of full breastfeeding were over four times less likely to contract pneumonia and half as likely to suffer recurrent ear infections," said lead author Caroline Chantry, a pediatrician with UC Davis Children's Hospital. Chantry and her colleagues found that the health benefits of the additional two months of full breastfeeding continued to protect babies from respiratory illnesses through their second birthdays.
"This finding adds to the mounting evidence that the longer a mother breastfeeds her infant, the greater the health benefits," Chantry said. Previous research by others has shown that exclusive breastfeeding for six months also provides greater protection against gastrointestinal infections, she added.
The current findings appear in the February 2006 issue of Pediatrics. They were first reported in 2002 at a joint meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies and American Academy of Pediatrics in Baltimore, Md. Since then, those preliminary findings have been used to support the recommendation that women breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of their baby's lives. The AAP first began making that recommendation in 1997.
As recently as 2005, however, the AAP Committee on Nutrition said more research was needed to support the position on breastfeeding. Chantry said she hopes the peer-reviewed publication of her research will finally settle the lingering controversy over the advice American women receive from their physicians and organizations like the AAP.