Breastfed Infants Less Likely to Die
May 3, 2004 -- Breastfed infants are less likely to die in the
first year of life, new research shows.
"If more U.S. mothers can be persuaded to breastfeed ...
then the United States might improve its poor ranking among industrialized
countries for [infant] deaths," writes lead researcher Aimin Chen, MD, PhD,
an epidemiologist with the National Institute of Environmental Health Services
in Research Triangle Park, N.C.
Her study -- a nationwide survey of 18,593 women -- appears in
the current issue of Pediatrics.
Studies have shown that breastfeeding lowers deaths from
preventable causes like infections, trauma, and sudden infant death syndrome
Further investigation of this protective effect is important,
also, to offset concerns about the infant's possible exposure to HIV or
chemical carcinogens through breast milk, writes Chen.
Chen took her data from surveys sent to 9,953 women whose
babies were born alive, 3,309 whose babies were stillborn or died shortly after
premature birth, and 5,332 whose babies died within their first year.
The surveys asked about the mother's prenatal care, the
infant's health, whether the infant was breastfed, and how long breastfeeding
lasted. Researchers also looked at the infants' death certificates. None of the
deaths was due to a congenital defect or cancer.
They found that:
- Breastfed babies were nearly 20% less likely to die in infancy.
The longer babies were breastfed, the lower the risk of infant
Both black and white infants had the same protection from
"Breastfed children have a decreased risk of [death in
infancy] in the United States," writes Chen.
Breastfeeding may protect infants from infections, but how it
affects SIDS is not yet understood, she writes.