More Proof That Breast-feeding Is Best?
We know that breast-feeding is the healthiest food choice for infants. A recent
study of more than 16,000 European mothers published in the Journal of
the American Medical Association (2001) offers some of the strongest
evidence yet that breast-fed babies are healthier. In this study, babies whose
mothers participated in an intensive breast-feeding program had significantly
less intestinal infections and eczema. Other studies have linked breast-feeding
with similar benefits, in addition to reductions in earaches, colds and asthma.
But most of those studies were retrospective (after the fact) analyses; this
one was prospective.
This study compared women who breast-fed a lot with women who breast-fed but
switched to bottle-feeding early on. Participants gave birth at 31 hospitals
or clinics in the Eastern European Republic of Belarus. Half of the hospitals
(selected at random) implemented an intensive breast-feeding instruction and
counseling program. The other hospitals served as a control group, which provided
the usual obstetric care and basic nursing information and instruction only.
By 12 months, nearly 20 percent of the infants who were part of the breast-feeding
program were still nursing, while 11.4 percent of the control group was. About
9 percent of the infants who had been in the breast-feeding program had at least
one intestinal infection in the first year, compared with about 13 percent of
the control group. About 3 percent of the breast-fed infants developed atopic
eczema, a scaly, allergy-associated skin irritation, compared with 6 percent
of the other babies.
While this study confirms that breast-feeding is healthier for the majority
of children, it should not be interpreted to suggest that mothers must
breast feed their children for 12 months or more. Individual women must
make the best nutritional choices for their individual children within the context
of other circumstances in their lives.
For more information on the benefits of breast-feeding, read "Are
there benefits to breastfeeding, other than psychological ones?" at
Created: 4/26/2001  - Donnica Moore, M.D.