Breastfeeding could reduce ear infection risk in babies

Breastfeeding boost for babies
Breastfeeding boost for babies
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New figures show a reduction in the number of ear infections among under-ones.

Researchers put the trend down to higher rates of breastfeeding, along with the use of vaccinations and a fall in smoking among mums.

And while ear infections may not seem like a major problem, they are among the most common childhood infections and are the most common reason youngsters are given antibiotics or have to undergo surgery.

Babies who develop ear infections when they are less than six-months-old are also at a higher risk of repeatedly suffering from the problem later in life.

The new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that rates of ear infection have dropped significantly since similar studies were conducted in the late 1980s and 1990s.

The number of three-month-olds developing ear infections has fallen from 18 to just six per cent. Meanwhile the number of six-month-olds developing ear infection has dropped from 39 per cent to 23 per cent and from 62 per cent to 45 per cent in one-year-olds.

To investigate the trend, researchers followed the progress of 367 babies for the first year of each of their lives.

Alongside this, the team collected valuable information on the family history of ear infections, cigarette exposure and whether the babies were breast or bottle-fed.

Researchers took regular mucus samples from the babies’ noses and throats to identify if an infection had started to develop.

Parents also told researchers if they identified any symptoms of an ear infection or a cold. If that was the case, a physician from the team then came to visit the baby.

The results revealed that the common cold often led to an ear infection and that breast preventing appeared to prevent both problems.

Study author Professor Tasnee Chonmaitree, of the University of Texas, said: “We clearly showed that frequent upper respiratory infections, carriage of bacteria in the nose, and lack of breastfeeding are major risk factors for ear infections.

“Prolonged breastfeeding was associated with significant reductions in both colds and ear infections, which is a common complication of the cold.

“It is likely that medical interventions in the past few decades, such as the use of pneumonia and flu vaccines and decreased smoking helped reduce ear infection incidences.”