In a new study published by the Archives of Diseases in Childhood, women who exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life were less likely to report common infections in their infants. Exclusivity means breastmilk was the only source of food consumed by infants.

Researchers followed a group of 1,000 infants for one year. At one month, three months, six months, nine months and one year – common infections were noted. The most common infant infections include respiratory, urinary, eye and ear infections. Also noted were upset stomach and thrush. Breastfeeding is supported as the healthiest choice for moms and infants because antibodies pass from mom to the baby via breastmilk – this study supports that claim.

Exclusive breastfeeding was rare in the study with only 24.6% of women doing so at one month of age. By six months, that number dropped to only 10%. Previous studies have reported significant drops in breastfeeding numbers between one and six months post delivery. In this study, babies who were exclusively breastfed longer were less likely to contract infections and when they did get sick, the infection lasted fewer days. Of the starting 1000, only 91 were exclusively breastfed at six months and all suffered from fewer infections and less severe illness.

Researchers note that women who breastfed and bottle fed with formula did not gain the full advantage of exclusive breastfeeding. Those infants fell closer to the formula feeding group than the breastfed only group of infants.

Source: Fani Ladomenou, Joanna Moschandreas, Anthony Kafatos, Yiannis Tselentis, Emmanouil Galanakis. Archives of Diseases in Childhood. 28 September, 2010.