Two new reviews regarding the health benefits of breastfeeding have recently been published. To establish the impact of long term breastfeeding, the World Health Organization¹ commissioned a review of the evidence available in the form of a series of systematic reviews. The available evidence suggests that breastfeeding may have long-term benefits. Subjects who were breastfed experienced lower mean blood pressure and total cholesterol, as well as higher performance in intelligence tests. Furthermore, the prevalence of overweight/obesity and type-2 diabetes was lower among breastfed subjects.
A review from the USA² investigated the effects of breastfeeding in developed countries. This is a particularly important piece of work as it reviews only those studies carried out in the developed world and therefore adds weight to the arguments that breastfeeding is vitally important for healthy outcomes outside of the developing world. The reviewers concluded that a history of breastfeeding was associated with a reduction in the risk of acute otitis media, non-specific gastroenteritis, severe lower respiratory tract infections, atopic dermatitis, asthma (young children), obesity, type 1 and 2 diabetes, childhood leukemia, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and necrotizing enterocolitis. For maternal outcomes, a history of lactation was associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, breast, and ovarian cancer. Early cessation of breastfeeding or not breastfeeding was associated with an increased risk of maternal postpartum depression.
¹ Horta B.L. et al (2007) Evidence on the long-term effects of breastfeeding. WHO
²Ip S et al (2007) Breastfeeding and Maternal Health Outcomes in Developed Countries. AHRQ Publication No. 07-E007. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality