Breastfeeding decreases infant mortality

May 02, 2004

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. - Data analyzed by scientists at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences suggest that breastfeeding can reduce the risk of death for infants in their first year of life. Looking at infants between 28 days and one year of age, researchers concluded that promoting breastfeeding can potentially prevent up to 720 postneonatal deaths in the U.S. each year.

Researchers compared CDC records of 1,204 children who died between 28 days and one year of causes other than congenital anomalies or cancer with those of 7,740 children still alive at one year.

Children who were breastfed had 20% lower risk of dying between 28 days and one year than children who weren't breastfed. Longer breastfeeding was associated with lower risk. The effect was the same in both black and white children.

Breastfed infants in the U.S. have lower rates of morbidity, especially from infectious disease, but there are no contemporary US studies of the effect of breastfeeding on all-cause mortality in the first year of life.

The study appears in the May issue of the scientific journal, Pediatrics, and will be released at the 2004 Academic Pediatrics Societies meeting in San Francisco on May 2.

Aimin Chen, MD, Ph.D. and Walter J Rogan, MD (both in the Epidemiology Branch at NIEHS, one of the National Institutes of Health) are the authors of the study. Dr. Rogan said, "Although we knew that breastfeeding in the developing world was lifesaving, since it prevented diarrhea and pneumonia, we had no nationally representative data from the US on this very basic outcome. These data show that, even in the US, there is a modest decrease in mortality for breastfed children."
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NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

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