Breastfeeding is the best way to provide your baby with all the nutrients and vitamins he or she needs during their first six months of life. Breast milk also contains substances that will shield your baby from illness and certain diseases.

Two new recent studies published in the journal Pediatrics have provided yet another reason why breastfeeding is beneficial for babies.

Study Findings

According to a recent HealthDay news article, the objective of these two studies was to determine if the health benefits of breastfeeding lasted long after a child began eating solid foods. One study found that 6-year-olds who were breastfed for nine months or longer had a 31 percent lower risk for ear infections, a 32 percent lower risk for throat infections, and a 53 percent lower risk for sinus infections. The study also found that the risk for these infections decreased even more depending on the amount of breastfeeding.

The second study found that children who were exclusively breastfed for four months had half the odds of developing food allergies, compared to children who were breastfed for a shorter amount of time. One researcher cautioned, however, that the decrease in food allergies was primarily among low-risk groups. No decrease in food allergies was observed in high-risk groups such as families with a history of food allergies.

In addition to these two studies, a study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences found that breastfeeding lowers a child’s risk of dying between the ages of 28-days-old and 1 year. The longer period of breastfeeding, the lower the risk.

How Breastfeeding Protects Babies from Allergies

Breast milk contains a substance called secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA) that provides a protective layers on the mucous membranes of a baby’s nose, throat and intestinal tract. This protective layer prevents undigested proteins and germs from entering these areas and causing allergic reactions, illness and other health problems. Babies who are bottle fed with formula miss out on this natural layer of protection.

Breastfeeding Lowers Risk of Other Ailments

Studies have proven that breastfeeding exclusively for at least six months may lessen the occurrence or severity of ailments such as ear infections, meningitis, lower respiratory illnesses and stomach viruses. Breastfeeding has also been shown to reduce the risk for certain childhood cancers, and it may help children avoid health conditions that occur in later years such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively (no formula, water or solids) until your baby is six months old, then continue breastfeeding and feeding your baby other foods until he or she is a year old, or as long as you and your baby desires.

By Ramie A Tritt, MD, President, Atlanta ENT