Community Breastfeeding Promotions Lower Infant Illness Rates

For Release: May 4, 1998, 5 p.m. (ET)

Below is a news release on a study published in the May issue of Pediatrics, the peer-reviewed, scientific journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

CHICAGO-A new study provides the strongest evidence to date suggesting that community-wide increases in breastfeeding are related to declines in certain infant illnesses, according to the studyís authors. The study, published in this monthís Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), focused on a community breastfeeding promotion that effectively increased the number of mothers who breastfed their babies. The studyís authors, from the University of Arizona, Tucson; Navajo Community College, Shiprock, Ariz.; Wellstart International, San Diego; and the Navajo Area Indian Health Service, reviewed the medical records of all babies born at the Indian Health Service hospital in Shiprock, N. M., over the course of two years. There were 977 infants born prior to the initiation of a community breastfeeding promotion and 858 infants born after the promotion.

The promotion consisted of three components: a community intervention (public service announcements, a video, a billboard and infant T-shirts distributed through the WIC program); an intervention in the health care system; and education of families about breastfeeding.

The proportion of women breastfeeding exclusively for any period of time increased from 16.4 percent to 54.6 percent after the promotion. The number of babies who had pneumonia declined by one-third, and gastroenteritis declined nearly 15 percent. Feeding groupsí specific rates of these illnesses remained constant before and after the intervention. Therefore, the overall community declines were likely due to the greater proportion of women breastfeeding after the intervention.

The authors conclude, "Increasing rates of breastfeeding, particularly among high-risk groups and in settings with low initial rates of breastfeeding, is an effective means of reducing infant illness at the community level."

EDITORíS NOTE: The AAP recommends that mothers breastfeed their babies for at least one year, and longer if mutually desired by mother and child.

Also, see this monthís Pediatrics electronic pages for the study, "Effects of Exposure to Alcohol in Motherís Milk on Infant Sleep."

EDITORíS NOTE: This study was published in the peer-reviewed, scientific journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, but does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of the Academy. The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 55,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.

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