Infant Mortality

Infant health research

These studies look at the link between breastfeeding and risk of disease and dying in infancy.

UK in danger of failing a generation of children and young people, says new report

The RCPCH published State of Child Health 2020 in March 2020, making it the UK’s largest compilation of data on the health of babies, children and young people. The report used key indicators to determine measures of health and wellbeing, including infant mortality, maternal and perinatal health, breastfeeding and smoking during pregnancy. Whilst the report confirmed that improvements in income and healthcare have contributed to a steady fall in the number of babies dying in their first year for some decades now throughout the world, conclusions found that infant mortality worsened in England between 2016-2017 and more than doubled in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived areas of England and Wales.

Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. State of Child Health 2020. March 2020.

Human Milk Oligosaccharides Exhibit Antimicrobial and Antibiofilm Properties against Group B Streptococcus

This study examined how human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) affect the pathogenesis of Group B Streptococcus (GBS). Researchers found that HMOs affect the growth and cell biology of GBS, providing the first example of HMOs functioning as antibiofilm agents against GBS – not only destroying bacteria directly but also physically breaking down the biofilms that the bacteria form to protect themselves.

Ackerman, DL, et al (2017), Human Milk Oligosaccharides Exhibit Antimicrobial and Antibiofilm Properties against Group B Streptococcus, ACS Infectious Diseases, DOI: 10.1021/acsinfecdis.7b00064

Breastfeeding and infant hospitalisations: Analysis of the 2010 UK Infant feeding survey

This study investigated the contributions of overall breastfeeding duration and exclusive breastfeeding on reducing the risk of hospitalisation for infectious causes. The authors analysed data from a three-stage survey on infant feeding practices and health outcomes in over 10,000 UK women in 2010–2011. A graded beneficial effect was found between longer duration of any breastfeeding and hospital admission for infectious causes and for respiratory tract infections, with a significantly lower risk in infants breastfed for at least three months compared with those never breastfed. The effects were stronger in the subgroup which was also exclusively breastfed. The authors suggest that exclusive breastfeeding in the initial weeks after childbirth and continuing to breastfeed (either exclusively or partially) for at least three months, preferably six months, may reduce morbidity due to infectious illness in infants.

Payne, S & Quigley, M (2016). Breastfeeding and infant hospitalisation: analysis of the UK 2010 Infant Feeding Survey. Maternal & Child Nutrition, DOI: 10.1111/mcn.12263

Optimal breastfeeding practices and infant and child mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis

This study synthesised the evidence for effects of optimal breastfeeding on all-cause and infection-related mortality in infants and children aged 0–23 months. The authors found higher rates of mortality among infants never breastfed compared to those exclusively breastfed in the first six months of life and receiving continued breastfeeding beyond.

Sankar, M. J. et al (2015). Optimal breastfeeding practices and infant and child mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Acta Paediatrica, Special Issue: Impact of Breastfeeding on Maternal and Child Health. Volume 104, Issue Supplement S467, pages 3–13

Breastfeeding and infant mortality

This US study reports that babies who are breastfed have a 21% lower risk of death in their first year, compared with babies never breastfed. The reduction in risk rises to 38% if babies are breastfed for 3 months or more. The study compares nationally representative samples of 1204 infants who died between 28 days and 1 year from causes other than congenital anomaly or malignant tumor with 7740 children who were still alive at 1 year. The researchers conclude that breastfeeding is associated with a reduction in risk for postneonatal death but acknowledge that the effects of breast milk and breastfeeding cannot be separated completely from other characteristics of the mother and child. Nevertheless, they note that increased breastfeeding rates would have the potential to save or delay around 720 postneonatal deaths in the United States each year.

Chen A & Rogan WJ (2004). Breastfeeding and the Risk of Postneonatal Death in the United States. Pediatrics 113: e435-e439

Related research and further reading

Infant health research: Meta-Analyses

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

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

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