Q. Is breastfeeding still the best choice for newborns?
It is actually the best choice for both mothers and newborns. Studies by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health have shown strong evidence and support for breastfeeding and the impact on health outcomes. The report, released last spring, found evidence that breastfeeding decreases infants and mother’s risk of having many short-term and chronic diseases.
Q. What kind of diseases did the report talk about?
There is strong evidence that shows that breastfeeding reduces infants’ risks of ear infections by up to 50 percent, serious lower respiratory tract infections that require hospitalization by 72 percent and certain types of dermatitis (skin rash) by 42 percent. The report also states that even with a strong family history of different health problems, breastfeeding is beneficial. For example, children with a family history of asthma who had been breastfed were 40 percent less likely to have asthma. The report went on to mention that the risk of developing type 1 diabetes was reduced by about 20 percent.
Q. Does it matter how long the mother continued breastfeeding?
Yes, the data mentioned above was seen in infants who were breastfed for three or more months. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), World Health Organization (WHO), and numerous other organizations recommend mothers to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months and continue nursing for at least one year to provide the best infant health, growth, and development.
Q. Were there any other noticeable benefits for newborns who breastfed?
The report also noted that breastfeeding was associated with fewer episodes of diarrhea during infancy, decreased incidence of childhood leukemia and decreased deaths from sudden infant death syndrome.
Q. What other health benefits are there for breastfeeding mothers?
For healthy outcomes in mothers, there is good evidence that women who breastfed their infants had up to a 12 percent reduced risk of type 2 diabetes for each year they breastfed. Breastfeeding decreased the risk of ovarian cancer by up to 21 percent and the risk of breast cancer by up to 28 percent in women who breastfed for 12 months or longer over their lifetimes.