Ecological Breastfeeding

There are many benefits to breastfeeding. According to Natural Family Planning International, Inc. (NFPI), the federal Agency for Healthcare and Research Quality * reviewed more than 9,000 abstracts and primary infant-health studies and published the results in 2007 (see below).  The agency concluded that breastfeeding reduced the risk of many diseases, including acute otitis media, severe lower respiratory tract infections, asthma (young children), type 1 and 2 diabetes, childhood leukemia, and necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).

And NEC, it turns out, is a very serious disease that can afflict sick and/or premature babies, in which a part of the intestine literally dies (that’s what necrotizing means). The best measure to ensure better health and prevent this disease? Breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months.

The benefits of Ecological Breastfeeding are so many. No one wants an infant to suffer the pain of disease. Breastfeeding can help ward off potential problems. Spread the word.

*”The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s (AHRQ) mission is to produce evidence to make health care safer, higher quality, more accessible, equitable, and affordable, and to work within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and with other partners to make sure that the evidence is understood and used.” — from the agency’s website, http://www.ahrq.gov/.

Read on for a summary of the report as it appeared in the agency’s April 23, 2007 Electronic Newsletter (http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/enews/enews226.htm#5):

New Evidence Report on Breastfeeding Available

AHRQ released a new report that finds there is evidence that breastfeeding decreases infants’ and mothers’ risk of having many short-term and chronic diseases. The report found good evidence that breastfeeding reduced infants’ risk of ear infections by up to 50 percent, serious lower respiratory tract infections by 72 percent and a skin rash similar to eczema by 42 percent. Children with a family history of asthma who had been breastfed were 40 percent less likely to have asthma, and children who were not prone to asthma had a 27 percent reduced risk compared with those children who were not breastfed. The risk of developing type 1 diabetes was reduced by about 20 percent. These benefits were seen in infants who were breastfed for 3 or more months. Breastfeeding also reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 39 percent compared with those who were not breastfed.

The report also found that breastfeeding was associated with fewer episodes of diarrhea during infancy, decreased incidence of childhood leukemia, and decreased deaths from sudden infant death syndrome. The report found no clear relationship between breastfeeding and improvement in IQ. In premature infants, breastfeeding decreased the occurrence of necrotizing enterocolitis, a serious gastrointestinal infection that often results in death.

For health 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. Breastfeeding also decreased the risk of breast cancer by up to 28 percent in those whose lifetime duration of breastfeeding was 12 months or longer. Women who did not breastfeed their infants were more likely to have postpartum depression, but unmeasured factors—such as depression that was undiagnosed prior to giving birth—may have increased the rate of depression seen in this group.

The report was nominated and funded by the HHS Office on Women’s Health and prepared by AHRQ’s Tufts-New England Medical Center Evidence-based Practice Center in Boston. Select to access the report. A print copy is available by sending an E-mail to ahrqpubs@ahrq.hss.gov.

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