In two separate clinical trials, Einstein researchers found that periodic meetings with a lactation consultant encourage women traditionally resistant to breast-feeding to try it, at least for a few months—long enough for mother and child to gain health benefits. The results were published in December in the American Journal of Public Health.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months after birth, followed by continued breast-feeding for one year or longer as other foods are introduced. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer than 75 percent of infants nationwide are breast-fed at all, and fewer than half are still being breast-fed at six months.
Some of the lowest rates of breast-feeding are known to occur among black/non-Hispanic, younger, overweight and less-educated mothers—women who made up a large majority of those enrolled in the two trials. In one of the two trials described in this paper, women who were regularly encouraged and given instruction and support for breast-feeding were more than four times more likely to breast-feed their infants exclusively at one month and nearly three times more likely to do so at three months, compared with the control group.
“The effects of our use of lactation consultants in particular were more impressive than those reported by two recent reviews that evaluated the effects of the numerous previous trials aimed at improving breast-feeding rates,” says Karen A. Bonuck, Ph.D., professor of family and social medicine and of obstetrics & gynecology and women’s health at Einstein.
In its 2012 policy statement on breast-feeding, the AAP states that “any breast-feeding” is associated with a 23 percent reduction in the incidence of middle-ear infections; a 64 percent reduction in the incidence of gastrointestinal tract infections; a 45 percent reduction in the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome; and a 15 percent to 30 percent reduction in adolescent and adult obesity rates.