Infant mortality is generally low in America, but it is even lower among babies who are breastfed. New research shows babies had a 33 percent reduced risk of dying in their first year of life if they were breastfed.
Researchers in Cincinnati looked at a large data set and attributed those protective benefits to the nutrition passed along from the mother to the baby through the breast milk. They published their findings in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
There were nearly 10 million babies born in the U.S. between 2016 and 2018 and those who were breastfed during the post-perinatal period of days 7-364 were 33 percent less likely to die than those who were not breastfed. That confirmed a previous report conducted with a much smaller segment of the population.
"Based on these data, there is clear evidence that breastfeeding confers a protective benefit during the first year of life and is strongly associated with reduced post-perinatal infant mortality across the U.S.," said lead investigator Dr. Julie L. Ware.
Dr. Ware is hoping this information can be used to promote breastfeeding as part of a larger infant mortality reduction initiative across the country.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization and other recognized authorities recommend breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of a baby’s life and then up to two years of age with complementary foods. Despite those recommendations, breastfeeding is less common among certain regions of the country and among some racial and ethnic populations.
"Although regional and state variation in the magnitude of the association between breastfeeding and infant mortality exists, there was a remarkable consistency of reduced risk,” said researcher Aimin Chen. “Together with existing literature, our data suggest that breastfeeding promotion and support may be an effective strategy to help reduce infant mortality in the US."
"Though breastfeeding is widely recommended, nevertheless, some may still consider it to be of minor importance,” said researcher Ardythe Morrow. “We hope that our findings will change the narrative. Human milk is replete with protective molecules, and breastfeeding offers significant protection."