28 Feb Women From High Income Countries Less Likely To Exclusively Breastfeed
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Alison McFadden, PhD
Senior Research Fellow
School of Nursing & Health Sciences
University of Dundee
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: The World Health Organization recommends that infants should be breastfed exclusively until six months of age with breastfeeding continuing as an important part of the infant’s diet until he or she is at least two years old. Breastfeeding has an important impact on the short-term and long-term health of both infants and their mothers. There is good evidence that not breastfeeding increases mortality and morbidity due to infectious diseases. Not breastfeeding is also associated with increases in hospitalisation for problems such as gastroenteritis, respiratory disease, and ear infections, as well as higher rates of childhood diabetes, obesity and dental disease.
Breastfeeding is also important for women’s health. It’s been found that not breastfeeding is associated with increased risks of breast and ovarian cancer, and diabetes. Few health behaviours have such a broad-spectrum and long-lasting impact on population health, with the potential to improve life chances, health and well-being. It has been estimated that each year, 823,000 deaths in children under five years and 20,000 deaths from breast cancer could be prevented by near universal breastfeeding.
However, many women stop breastfeeding before they want to as a result of the problems they encounter. Current breastfeeding rates in many countries do not reflect the WHO recommendation. Only around 37% of babies under six months worldwide are exclusively breastfed, and in many high and middle income countries, the rates are much lower. Good care and support may help women solve these problems so that they can continue to breastfeed.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: This updated Cochrane review contains over 100 trials, involving more than 83,000 mother-infant pairs. The studies were carried out in 29 countries including low, middle and high-income settings. The tested interventions varied widely. We found that when breastfeeding support is offered to women, the duration and exclusivity of their breastfeeding is increased. The overall quality of the evidence as moderate because of the wide variation in the types of interventions, settings and the alternatives with which the support interventions were compared. We also found moderate quality evidence that support might be more effective if it is offered as standard by trained personnel, and includes ongoing scheduled visits so that women can predict when support will be available. Finally, strategies that rely mainly on face-to-face support are more likely to succeed with women practising exclusive breastfeeding.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: The practical implications of our review are that all women everywhere should be routinely offered trained breastfeeding support and that this should be readily accessible to them
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: This review contains a large number of trials and the number of studies examining effective ways to provide breastfeeding support continues to grow. While there are still unanswered questions about how best to provide breastfeeding support, there is a pressing need for studies that investigate how breastfeeding support can be provided consistently and scaled-up for all women in all settings.
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Support for healthy breastfeeding mothers with healthy term babies
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