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2018 studies confirm the power of breastfeeding

Written by Tanya, IBCLC   

Each year brings new research findings about the power of breastfeeding and breastmilk, and 2018 was no exception.  Below are some of the highlights in breastfeeding research this year.  You can see the 2017 research, too!

Breastfeeding may offer some protection against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  “Researchers found that infants who were breastfed for at least six months had a smaller number of resistant bacteria in their digestive tract than babies breastfed for a shorter length of time or not at all.”

Breastfeeding is associated with genetic changes which are protective against stress.  “Breastfeeding was associated with decreased DNA methylation and decreased cortisol reactivity in the infants. In other words, there was an epigenetic change in the babies who were breastfed, resulting in reduced stress than those who were not breastfed.” 

Breastfeeding may limit children's Chron's disease progression.  “Children with Crohn’s disease who are breastfed are less likely to experience progression to stricturing or penetrating disease.”  

Preterm babies experience better brain development when breastfed.  “Babies who exclusively received breast milk for at least three-quarters of the days they spent in hospital showed improved brain connectivity compared with others.”  

Breastfeeding is associated with lower stroke risk among mothers.  “A new study from the American Heart Association shows that breastfeeding decreases the risk of stroke, the third-leading cause of death for women in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).” 

Breastfeeding is associated with lower cardiovascular risk among mothers.  “Researchers at the American College of Cardiology have found that women who breastfeed their babies for at least six months may benefit from better cardiovascular health years later in comparison to those who never breastfed their babies.”

Breastfeeding is associated with significantly lower risk of maternal diabetes. “In a long-term national study, breastfeeding for six months or longer cuts the risk of developing type 2 diabetes nearly in half for women throughout their childbearing years, according to new research.”

Breastfeeding is associated with lower risk of asthma among children who are at high risk.  “Antibiotic use in pregnancy was a risk factor for childhood asthma. However, this risk may be attenuated by exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life, especially among high-risk children.”

Breastfeeding is associated with lower risk of hypertension in mothers.   “A new study indicates that women who breastfeed more children, and for longer periods of time, are less likely to suffer from hypertension after they reach menopause. This is less true of obese women, however.”

Breastfeeding may reduce the risk of overweight in higher birth-weight babies.  “The risk of overweight or obesity decreased significantly if high-birthweight infants were exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life.”

Breastfeeding is associated with better heart health in mothers.  “After adjusting for factors such as age, body mass index, and socio-economic status, the researchers found in the follow-up that women with normal blood pressure during pregnancy and who breastfed for six months or more had better markers of cardiovascular health, including significantly higher levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, lower triglycerides, and healthier carotid artery thickness compared to those who had never breastfed.”  

Breastfeeding is associated with lower risk of fatty liver disease.  “The researchers from the UCSD School of Medicine collaborated with Kaiser Permanente for the study, which found that women who breastfed at least one child for six months or more had a lower risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease than women who breastfed for one month or fewer.”  

Breastfeeding may contribute to good gut bacteria formation in babies.  “According to a study published in the journal Nature, breastfeeding plays a crucial role in providing good gut bacteria to babies until the age of two-and-a-half years with a little change after this point. The study found that this bacterium, Bifidobacterium, was abundant in breast milk that declined rapidly after breastfeeding stopped. It is one of the main bacteria used in probiotics, owing to its potential therapeutic properties.