The studies below explore the wide-reaching and long-term impact of infant feeding choices, with particular focus on the huge benefits that breastfeeding brings to physical and emotional wellbeing, as well as the dangers of failing to support breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding and the risk of childhood cancer: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis
This meta-analysis of 45 articles aimed to quantitatively summarise the available evidence on the association of breastfeeding with the risk of childhood cancer. Of the 33 studies relating to the association between breastfeeding and risk of childhood leukemia, the pooled risk estimates were 0.77 for ever versus non/occasional breastfeeding and longest versus shortest breastfeeding duration group, respectively. There was also clear indication for non-linear dose-response relationship between breastfeeding duration and the risk of childhood leukemia (P non-linear < 0.001). The most protective effect was observed at a breastfeeding duration of 9.6 months. Conclusions support a protective role of breastfeeding on the risk of childhood leukemia, also suggesting a non-linear dose-response relationship. Further studies are warranted to confirm the association between breastfeeding and risk of childhood neuroblastoma.
Delayed breastfeeding initiation and infant survival: A systematic review and meta-analysis
This systematic review examines the association between breastfeeding initiation and neonatal mortality. Infants initiating breastfeeding within an hour of birth versus infants initiating breastfeeding between two and 23 hours after birth had a 33% less risk of mortality. Infants initiating breastfeeding 24 hours after birth had an 85% greater risk of mortality. The authors note that globally, only half of infants are breastfed during the first hour of birth, with just 60% exclusively breastfed. The research calls for additional evidence to strengthen and promote breastfeeding programmes.
Smith ER, Hurt L, Chowdhury R, Sinha B, Fawzi W, Edmond KM, et al. (2017) Delayed breastfeeding initiation and infant survival: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS ONE 12(7): e0180722. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0180722
Child health in 2030 in England: comparisons with other wealthy countries
This report from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH)’s uses long-term historical data to project outcomes for children and young people’s health in 2030. It predicts that without urgent action in England by 2030: mortality rates are set to be 140% higher for infants than in comparable wealthy nations; reported mental health problems may increase by 60%; A&E attendances among children and young people likely to increase by 50%; and nearly one-third of England’s most deprived boys will be obese. The college argues that a properly funded health strategy which could transform the life chances of children and young people is needed urgently if England is to stem the predicted rises. We welcome the report’s recommendation that: “NHS England must mandate all maternity services to achieve and maintain Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative accreditation”, highlighting the importance of early nutrition and relationships in laying a strong foundation for future health.
International comparisons of health and wellbeing in early childhood
This report from the Nuffield Trust compares data on child health and wellbeing across 14 different countries. Whilst the UK performs well in some areas, it lags far behind on breastfeeding compared to similarly developed countries, with serious implications for child and lifelong health. The report highlights the importance of enabling health services to achieve and maintain Baby Friendly accreditation in order to better support mothers to breastfeed.
- Early moments matter
Unicef, (2017). Early moments matter, https://www.unicef.org/publications/index_100862.html
- National Maternity and Perinatal Audit: Organisational report 2017
- Term admissions to neonatal units in England: a role for transitional care? A retrospective cohort study
- Avoiding Term Admissions in Neonatal Units (ATAIN programme)
- Early additional food and fluids for healthy breastfed full-term infants
Smith, H, et al (2016) Early additional food and fluids for healthy breastfed full-term infants. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 8. Art. No.: CD006462. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006462.pub4
- Suboptimal breastfeeding in the United States: Maternal and pediatric health outcomes and costs
- The Lancet breastfeeding series
- Special issue on the impact of breastfeeding
- Long-term consequences of breastfeeding on cholesterol, obesity, systolic blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
Horta, B.L. et al (2015). Long-term consequences of breastfeeding on cholesterol, obesity, systolic blood pressure and type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Acta Paediatrica, Special Issue: Impact of Breastfeeding on Maternal and Child Health. Volume 104, Issue Supplement S467, pages 30-37.
- Breastfeeding and reduced hospital admissions
Related research and further reading
The Lancet: Increasing breastfeeding worldwide could prevent over 800,000 child deaths every year