Breastfeeding cuts baby girls’ pneumonia risk

Breastfeeding cuts baby girls’ pneumonia risk
(Reuters Health) — Breastfeeding appears to reduce the risk for severe lung
infection and associated hospitalization among infant girls, but not among
infant boys.

The finding comes from a study of babies in Buenos Aires, Argentina, by Dr.
Fernando Polack, from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and

Boys may derive some protection from breastfeeding, noted Polack, but this
study may have been too small to sufficiently identify this benefit.

Still, the results mirror previous research conducted in Argentina and the
United States, Polack told Reuters Health, and when taken together indicate
that “mothers of girls should pay close attention to the importance of
breastfeeding to protect their infant’s lungs.”

The investigators assessed how breastfeeding altered the risk for pneumonia
and hospitalization among 323 infants who developed an acute respiratory
infection at an average age of 4.6 months.

Overall, 77 percent of the infants were breastfed, Polack’s team reports in
the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal.

Viral pneumonia developed in 23 percent of the formula-fed girls versus 5
percent of the breastfed girls. Hospitalization was necessary more
frequently among formula-fed girls (38 percent) compared with breastfed
girls (18 percent).

These associations held after taking onto account other risk factors for
respiratory infection such as tobacco use at home, siblings 10 years old and
younger, living in a crowded environment, age younger than 3 months, the
presence of other viral infections, and a history of asthma among family

Any benefit for boys, on the other hand, was not significant from a
statistical standpoint in this study.

Polack’s group calls for larger studies in different ethnic groups to
investigate how breastfeeding impacts girls and boys. They also suggest
aggressive promotion of exclusive breastfeeding, as well as active
monitoring of non-breastfed girls.

*– Joene Hendry*


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