Heart Disease and Health

Infant health research

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These studies look at the link between breastfeeding and heart disease.

Human milk and infants with congenital heart disease: A summary of current literature supporting the provision of human milk and breastfeeding

This review highlights the role of human milk in supporting the health of infants with congenital heart disease. Researchers found that infants receiving an exclusive human milk diet are at a lower risk for necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) and will have improved weight gain, and that infants with chylothorax who receive skimmed human milk have higher weight-for-age scores than formula-fed infants. The authors argue that given these benefits, evidence-based lactation education and care must be provided to mothers and families prenatally and continue throughout the infant’s hospitalization. If a mother’s goal is to directly breastfeed, this should be facilitated during the infant’s hospital stay.

Davis, J, & Spatz, D, (2018). Human Milk and Infants With Congenital Heart Disease: A Summary of Current Literature Supporting the Provision of Human Milk and Breastfeeding. Advances in Neonatal Care: Official Journal of the National Association of Neonatal Nurses, doi: 10.1097/ANC.0000000000000582

Benefits of breastfeeding on premature babies’ heart health in adulthood

This study of 926 preterm infants provides the first evidence of a beneficial association between breast milk and cardiac morphology and function in adult life in preterm babies. It supports the promotion of human milk for the care of preterm infants to reduce long-term cardiovascular risk.

Lewandowski, A et al (2016), Breast Milk Consumption in Preterm Neonates and Cardiac Shape in Adulthood, Pediatrics, 10.1542/peds.2016-0050

Breastmilk and reduced cholesterol in adolescence

This study of 216 participants born preterm found that those who received breastmilk had a lower ration of LDL to HDL cholesterol compared with those who had been given preterm formula.

Singhal A et al (2004). Breastmilk feeding and lipoprotein profile in adolescents born preterm: follow-up of a prospective randomised study . Lancet 363: 1571-78

Related research and further reading

The impact of breastfeeding on maternal and child health: Acta Paediatrica special issue

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Research on Overweight and Obesity

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The Lancet: Increasing breastfeeding worldwide could prevent over 800,000 child deaths every year

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