Feeding at the breast may be healthier than feeding pumped milk from a bottle for reducing the risk of ear infection in babies, says a study.
The researchers also found that feeding breast milk compared with formula may reduce the risk of diarrhoea in the first 12 months of life.
A total of 491 mothers completed surveys as part of the study published in the Journal of Pediatrics.
Mothers who stated their intent to bottle-feed exclusively were not included in the study. In the remaining surveys, three out of four women used some combination of feeding from the breast, pumped milk and formula in the first 12 months of their children’s lives.
The researchers found that one month of feeding at the breast was associated with a four percent reduction in the odds for ear infection.
The risk was 17 percent lower for infants fed at the breast for six months of infancy, the study found.
Among infants who were fed only breast milk — either at the breast and/or pumped breast milk from a bottle — for the first six months, the odds of experiencing an ear infection increased by approximately 14 percent for infants fed pumped milk for one month and by 115 percent for infants fed with pumped milk for six months.
“While it is not completely clear why ear infections may be related to bottle feeding, it could be because bottles can create a negative pressure during feeding,” explained Sarah Keim, senior author of the study from The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, US.
“This negative pressure is then transferred from the bottle to the middle ear of the infant during feedings, which may precipitate ear infections,” Keim noted.
Infants fed with breast milk by either mode for six months had an approximately 30 percent reduced risk of diarrhoea.