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Health & Baby

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Breastfeeding Cuts Fever Risk After Vaccines

Study Shows Breastfed Babies Less Likely to Have Fevers After Vaccinations

Why Breastfeeding May Reduce Risk of Fever

Exactly why breastfed infants are less likely to develop a fever after getting shots is unclear, but breast milk may contain certain anti-inflammatory substances that could potentially reduce fever risk. It may also be due to the fact that breastfed infants are less likely to stop eating when they don't feel well because breastfeeding provides a sense of comfort during illness.

"This is another great reason to breastfeed," says Laura Wilwerding, MD, a lactation consultant and a clinical associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. "Getting immunized is traumatic for infants, and anything that we can do to decrease side effects is great."

There are other benefits from breastfeeding when it comes to immunizations, she says.

"Breastfeeding during the actual shot process decreases discomfort," she says. "It may be that the sheer comfort of being with mom in such a natural way takes the infant's mind off of the pain of the shots."

What's more, "immunizations have been shown to work better in babies who are breastfed," she says.

The new findings also make intuitive sense to Barbara Holmes, a lactation specialist New York University Langone Medical Center. "Babies want to nurse more frequently, and because they are nursing more frequently, they are getting more food [than formula-fed infants], so whatever need they have to repair their body and bring down the fever is being met," she says.

"It could be that there is some anti-inflammatory protective benefit in breast milk," says Natali Aziz, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif. She tells WebMD that she routinely encourages new moms to breastfeed. "There is a significant amount of data and research that maternal antibodies are transferred during breastfeeding and can be protective against viral infections."

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