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Breastfeeding protects infants from many common illnesses, a new study has found. Babies breastfed for at least three months were less likely to spend time in the hospital or develop asthma, colds, ear infections, or other common conditions.

Researchers tracked the health and breastfeeding histories of nearly 4,000 children living in Ireland. They compared the rates of hospitalization and illnesses of babies fed breast milk exclusively for 90 days or more to those who never breastfed.

They found that babies breastfed for 90 days or more were less likely to develop chest infections, common colds, ear infections, asthma, respiratory problems, eczema, skin allergies or problems, vomiting, and colic, compared to those who never breastfed. Breastfed babies were also less likely to require medical treatment or be hospitalized.

These findings support the practice of breastfeeding for optimal infant health. They also underscore the benefits of breast milk, even for infants born in a developed nation.

Breast milk is a complex, dynamic fluid that contains nutritional and non-nutritional components that positively influence an infant’s health and development. These components work together synergistically to supply a compensatory immune “system” that includes antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agents, immunomodulatory factors, leukocytes, and others. Learn more about breast milk and breastfeeding in our overview article.

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