Study finds significant reduction in respiratory illnesses in babies breastfed six months vs. four

d her colleagues conducted an analysis of a nationally representative, cross-sectional survey of 2,277 children between the ages of 6 and 24 months. They identified five groups -- formula-fed only, full breastfeeding for less than one month, full breastfeeding from one to four months, full breastfeeding from four to less than six months and full breastfeeding for six months or more. Full breastfeeding allows for the use of formula on less than a daily basis.

The researchers then looked at the percent of children in each group who experienced pneumonia, wheezing and recurrent (three or more) colds or ear infections. The results showing the protective effects of the additional two months of breastfeeding held even when the data were adjusted for age, birth weight, ethnicity, poverty, two-parent household, parental education, family size, child care and passive smoke exposure.

Despite the proven benefits of breastfeeding, the reality for many women is that breastfeeding is difficult to maintain after going back to work. By law, employers only have to give women six weeks of maternity leave.

"It may become burdensome to pump regularly even if a woman has an accommodating employer," Chantry said.

Chantry said research here and in other countries has shown that longer maternity leaves, pump-friendly workplaces and child care in the workplace all result in longer lengths of breastfeeding. In addition, employers who provide clean, comfortable places to pump and on-site child care save money due to decreases in absenteeism due to child illness, lower employee turnover due to dissatisfaction and lower direct health care costs.

While many women need support to continue breastfeeding when returning to work, others need help right from the start.

"Most women experience difficulties when they leave the hospital. These challenges often lead to premature weaning," Chantry explained. Women need access to lactation consultants and ot

Contact: Karen Finney
916 734-9064
University of California, Davis - Health System

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