"We found that babies who received an additional two months of full breastfeeding were over four times less likely to contract pneumonia and half as likely to suffer recurrent ear infections," said lead author Caroline Chantry, a paediatrician with UC Davis Children's Hospital. The health benefits of the additional two months of full breastfeeding continue to protect babies from respiratory illnesses through their second birthdays.

"This finding adds to the mounting evidence that the longer a mother breastfeeds her infant, the greater the health benefits," Chantry said. Previous research by others has shown that exclusive breastfeeding for six months also provides greater protection against gastrointestinal infections.

Chantry and her colleagues conducted an analysis of a nationally representative, cross-sectional survey of 2,277 children between the ages of 6 and 24 months. They identified five groups – formula-fed only, full breastfeeding for less than one month, full breastfeeding from one to four months, full breastfeeding from four to less than six months and full breastfeeding for six months or more. Full breastfeeding allows for the use of formula on less than a daily basis.

The researchers then looked at the percentage of children in each group who experienced pneumonia, wheezing and three or more colds or ear infections. The results showing the protective effects of the additional two months of breastfeeding held even when the data were adjusted for age, birth weight, ethnicity, poverty, two-parent household, parental education, family size, child care and passive smoke exposure.

MEDICA.de; Source: University of California, Davis