The benefits of breastfeeding are no secret. Breastfeeding offers long term advantages for mother and infant that are unmatched by formula products. From digestive health to lifelong immunity, breastfeeding is nature’s aid to our wellness building blocks. Many women are opting to breastfeed their children to give them the gift of these benefits, and some are even moving to extended breastfeeding for further promotion of their child’s health.

It has long been known that breastfeeding aids in reducing the risk of illness and infection in infants, but many are unaware of developing studies that show a correlation between breastfeeding and long-term health. There are now obvious links suggesting that extended breastfeeding may reduce your child’s risk of getting an ear, throat or sinus infection.

The Study

A recent study published in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics followed children from birth to the age of 6. The data collected showed that children who were breastfed had lower rates of sinus and ear infections. Further, the longer a child was breastfed, the less likely they had experienced an infection. This is an important finding considering that there are 1 billion reported cases of sinus infections annually in the United States and 24 million patients diagnosed with ear infections. Further studies could lead to the improved health of future generations.

Epidemiologist and leader of the research team, Dr. Ruowei Li, employed at the CDC in Atlanta, said, “This study provides hard evidence that health benefits of breastfeeding go beyond infancy and breastfeeding seems to be the best prescription for preventing these infections.” It seems that defending against infection begins immediately, and breastfeeding provides the greatest known protection that extends well beyond weaning.

The Link

Starting with data from women who had been previously enrolled in the US Food and Drug Administrations “Infant Feeding Practices Study II”, researchers contacted 1,281 of the mothers in 2012, when the children had reached age 6. Information was gathered on the child’s health history for the previous 12 months, including number of infections and trips to the doctor’s office.

The research team discovered that only 15% of breastfed children had experienced sinus infections compared to 22% of non-breastfed children. 24% of breastfed children had been diagnosed with throat infections compared to 30% non-breastfed and 25% of breastfed children fell ill with ear infections compared to 28% that were never breastfed. The longer a child was breastfed, the lower the infection rate. This suggests that children who are introduced solids at an older age and exclusively breastfed longer have lower odds of experiencing an ear, throat or sinus infections.

The Recommendation

It is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics that mothers exclusively breastfeed their children for the first six months of life, then slowly introduce a nutritious diet of solids while continuing to breastfeed at least through the first year. Not only does this promote digestive health, but it also sets up a child’s immunity for extended lifetime success.