In an Associated Press story of October 19, 1999 was a report of a new study that shows that breast fed babies may up to 30% lower risk of developing leukemia. These findings were also published in the October 20 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. This new research was performed by researchers at the University of Minnesota Cancer Center. The results of the study showed that the longer the babies were breast fed the more protected they were against leukemia. Babies breast fed for one month were 21% less at risk from leukemia, while those breast fed for six months or more were 30% less likely to develop leukemia. Dr. Les Robinson, the principle researcher, summed the results up as follows; "We have long known of breast-feeding's health benefits in terms of protecting children from infection. Now we have evidence to suggest its immune-stimulating effects may provide another significant advantage, protection against cancer."
Reuters Health reported on September 24, 1999 about an analysis performed at the University of Kentucky were researchers reviewed 20 studies conducted between 1966 and 1996. The researchers controlled for such variables as birthweight, education and other factors.
The results showed a significant increase in cognitive development of 3.16 compared to formula fed babies. The gains were more pronounced in babies born with a lower birth weight than in children with normal birth weight. The increases in cognitive development from breast-feeding were noticed in children as early as six months of age and persisted up to 15 years of age, the longest follow up of the study. The authors of the study did note that several previous studies supported the hypothesis that human breast milk does support neurologic development.
From a study done at the University of Kentucky, reported in the Associated Press comes the results showing a link between breast feeding and child intelligence. The report states, "At least 60% of the average intelligence gain seen in breast-fed infants comes from breast milk's nutritional value."
Researcher James Anderson reviewed 20 different studies comparing brain development in breast-fed infants to those fed formula. He states, "Our study confirms that breast-feeding is accompanied by a about a five-points higher IQ than in bottle-fed infants." He goes on to say, "Our best estimates are that maternal bonding and the decision to breast feed account for about 40 percent of the increase, but that 60 percent is related to the actual nutritional value of the breast milk."
From Reuters Health news service comes an article dated December 31, 1998 about breast feeding babies. The article starts by confirming what we have known for some time that infants who are fed only breast milk have stronger resistance to infection and therefore are at lowered risk of getting infections. Studies have shown that mother pass immunity-enhanced agent to their babies through breast milk. This results in babies less likely to suffer from respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses than those who are bottle-fed. Researchers found that the breast-fed babies had significantly less diarrhea, vomiting, cough, and wheezing in the first six months of life.
The study also showed that those babies fed a higher portion of breast milk had higher resistance and lower rate of illness. Those babies fed a lower ratio of breast milk were increasingly more vulnerable to the illness mentioned. However, once the ratio of breast milk to other food hit a certain level where the food intake was higher than the breast milk, the results for the children were the same as those who were fed no breast milk at all.
This study points out that the more breast milk fed to the infant the better. But if the amount of breast milk drops below a certain level, the beneficial effects are lost.
From the British Medical Journal is a news story that states, "Breastfeeding could save lives". According to findings presented at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, children who are not breast fed seem to have weaker immune systems and, therefore, are at a greater risk of infection and death. The numbers are alarming. Of the 12 million children under 5 years of age who die each year, a full 1.5 million could have been saved had they been breast-fed.
Breastfeeding even has benefits for the mother's health. The March 17th, 1999 Reuters Health reported on a study presented at the American Psychosomatic Society annual meeting. There has been noticed a breastfeeding hormone, oxytin that helps lower the mother's blood pressure. Studies confirmed the greater presence of this hormone in mothers who were breastfeeding. The presence of the hormone oxytin correlated directly with the mothers who had lower blood pressure.
Children also receive benefit from breastfeeding simply by avoiding cow's-milk. In the October 15th, 1998 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine appears an article discussing chronic constipation linked to infants and children with intolerance to cow's milk. In addition, intolerance to cow's milk was also linked to diarrhea, allergic rhinitis, asthma, and eczema. I guess the bottom line is, when it comes to babies, "Mother's milk, it does their body good!"