Lancet meta-analysis confirms breast is best

Stuff 29 January 2016
One of the world’s most prestigious medical journals has confirmed breast-feeding’s positive effect on mothers’ and babies’ health.
The Lancet has published a series on the health benefits of breast-feeding across low, middle and high income countries, analysing 28 pieces of research which studied breast-feeding’s effect on children’s mortality, diarrhoea, respiratory infections, “swimmer’s ear”, eczema, food allergies, hay fever, asthma, infant growth, and dental health.
The researchers from Brazil, Switzerland, New York, Baltimore and New Delhi, also studied breast-feeding’s effect on mothers’ risk of temporary postnatal infertility, breast and ovarian cancers, type-2 diabetes, post-partum weight change and osteoporosis.
The meta-analysis is to date the most comprehensive and statistically robust analysis of thirty years of breast-feeding research.
The study reported breast-feeding had a strong protective effect on infant mortality on low and high income countries. For the latter, breastfeeding was associated with a 36 per cent reduction in sudden infant deaths, and a 58 per cent reduction in necrotising enterocolitis – a often-fatal condition where a portions of an infant’s bowel tissue dies.
The authors note that mothers in high-income countries breast-fed their babies for shorter durations than those in low or middle income countries. Fewer than one in five children in high-income countries are breast-fed by 12 months of age.
Data from New Zealand indicated 44 per cent of mothers were breast-feeding at 12 months – a higher proportion than in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada or Australia.

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