Benefits of breastfeeding to infants in Canada

Breastfeeding Help And Baby Care For New Parents

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Breastfeeding is recommended for all infants, with very few exceptions. Exceptions include infants with galactosemia, or infants of mothers who are HIV antibody positive or have untreated, active tuberculosis.

  • i) Reduced incidence of infection. Recent studies have provided evidence that, in developed countries, breastfeeding protects against gastrointestinal and respiratory infections and decreases the risk of otitis media (Beaudry et al., 1995; Duncan et al., 1993; Howie et al., 1990; Boucher et al., 1986). Newborn infants breastfed for 13 weeks or more had significantly fewer gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses during the first year of life when compared to formula-fed infants (Howie et al., 1990). In comparison to formula-fed infants, infants exclusively breastfed for a minimum of 16 weeks had fewer episodes of single and recurrent otitis media during the first year of life (Duncan et al., 1993). Breastfed infants supplemented with formula or food before 4 months were more likely to develop otitis media (Duncan et al., 1993). A recent meta-analysis of the risk factors for acute otitis media showed that the risk decreased with breastfeeding for at least 3 months (Uhari et al., 1996). Thus, exclusive breastfeeding seems to have a protective effect.
  • ii) Prevention of SIDS. Although a number of studies have suggested an association between breastfeeding and protection against sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), none has controlled for infant sleeping position and household smoke exposure, two important risk factors; thus, a causative protective relationship remains unproved (Ford et al., 1993; Bernshaw, 1991; Kraus et al., 1989). Nevertheless, breastfeeding may give some protection against SIDS.
  • iii) Prevention of allergies. Atopic disease in infants is frequently reported. Its incidence has been estimated at 10%, but is likely closer to 2% (Falth-Magnusson et al., 1987; Van Asperen et al., 1983, 1984). The wide range of reported incidence is due to variable diagnostic criteria and techniques, and the high incidence of self-diagnosis. Poor study designs have contributed to the controversy regarding the protective effect of breastfeeding against atopic disease (Kramer; 1988). Breastfeeding compared to formula feeding does not appear to decrease the incidence of atopy in infants with no genetic predisposition to atopy (Lucas et al., 1990). For infants at increased risk because of a positive family history (one or both parents, or a sibling with atopy), exclusive breastfeeding for at least

4 months does appear to have a protective effect (Chandra, 1997; Saarinen and Kajosaari, 1995; Burr et al., 1993; Lucas et al., 1990).

For infants with a family history of atopy, maternal avoidance of specific foods (e.g. milk and dairy products, eggs, peanuts) during pregnancy and lactation has not been proven to be more effective in reducing the incidence and severity of atopy throughout the first year of life than exclusive breastfeeding without maternal food restriction (Falth-Magnusson, 1994; Zeiger et al., 1989). Risk of reduction in third trimester maternal weight gain and lower infant birth weight in the women avoiding potentially allergenic food during pregnancy illustrate the need for close nutritional monitoring. Until the efficacy of a restricted diet during pregnancy and lactation is known, routine restriction of diets of mothers of infants at risk for allergy is not recommended.

A small number of exclusively breastfed infants may develop allergic responses due to the passive transfer of food antigens from the mother's diet through breast milk. Two protein food antigens, bovine IgG (Clyne and Kulczycki, 1991) and 6-lactoglobulin (Jakobsson et al., 1985) have been detected in breast milk. If exclusively breastfed infants present with clinical signs of atopy, a trial elimination-challenge of suspect foods in the mother's diet is recommended to determine whether or not the infant's reaction is to foods eaten by the mother. Common offending food antigens are protein-rich foods such as cow's milk, fish, eggs, soy and peanuts. If maternal diet modification is deemed necessary, counselling from a dietitian or nutritionist may be beneficial.

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New Mothers Guide to Breast Feeding

New Mothers Guide to Breast Feeding

For many years, scientists have been playing out the ingredients that make breast milk the perfect food for babies. They've discovered to day over 200 close compounds to fight infection, help the immune system mature, aid in digestion, and support brain growth - nature made properties that science simply cannot copy. The important long term benefits of breast feeding include reduced risk of asthma, allergies, obesity, and some forms of childhood cancer. The more that scientists continue to learn, the better breast milk looks.

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