Breastfeeding Associated with Reduction in Infant Mortality


A new study found that among nearly 10 million infants born between 2016 and 2018, breastfed babies were 33 percent less likely to die within their first year.

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, was led by Julie Ware, MD, MPH, associate professor at the University of Cincinnati Department of Pediatrics on the Burnet Campus in Northern Kentucky. Previous research on smaller datasets has suggested that breastfeeding reduces the risk of infant mortality. For this investigation, Ware and her team aimed to analyze the impact of breastfeeding on infant mortality on a broader scale.

Researchers partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics to assess birth certificate data on infants born in the United States between 2016 and 2018. The birth certificates, which included information on whether the baby was breastfed, were compared with infant deaths up to one year after birth. During their analysis, the researchers took factors such as maternal age, education, race and ethnicity, and geographical location into account.

According to researchers, the analysis indicated that breastfeeding was associated with a significant reduction in first-year post-perinatal death.

“We found that the effect was evident across the US, but with regional variations, ranging from 44 percent in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, where breastfeeding initiation is the highest, and 21 percent in the Southeast, where breastfeeding initiation is the lowest,” said co-investigator Aimin Chen, PhD, of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “Although regional and state variation in the magnitude of the association between breastfeeding and infant mortality exists, there was a remarkable consistency of reduced risk. Together with existing literature, our data suggest that breastfeeding promotion and support may be an effective strategy to help reduce infant mortality in the US.”

These results suggest that breastfeeding may be important in promoting infant health.

"Though breastfeeding is widely recommended, nevertheless, some may still consider it to be of minor importance,” said co-investigator Ardythe Morrow, PhD, of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. “We hope that our findings will change the narrative. Human milk is replete with protective molecules, and breastfeeding offers significant protection."