Not all mums can breastfeed – and while that’s OK, many studies have shown that breastfeeding can provide a range of health benefits for newborn babies.
While only one per cent of babies in the UK exclusively breastfed to six months, according to recent research, tots who were breastfed for between four and six months from birth were less likely – up to 54% – to develop the painful skin condition, eczema.
Researchers from King’s College London, Harvard University, University of Bristol and McGill University examined more than 13,000 teenagers enrolled in the PROmotion of Breastfeeding Intervention Trial (PROBIT) to discover these results.
The PROBIT study recruited 17,000 mothers and their new-born babies between June 1996 and December 1997.
Talking to The Sun, lead author Dr Carsten Flohr said: ‘The World Health Organisation recommends between four and six months of exclusive breastfeeding to aid prevention of allergy and associated illnesses.
‘Our findings add further weight to the importance of campaigns like the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, which is tackling low rates of breastfeeding globally.’
Eczema causes the skin to become itchy, dry, cracked, sore and red and it affects around one in five children and one in ten adults.
Professor Richard Martin from Bristol Medical School added: ‘There’s convincing evidence from a large randomised trial of 17,000 mothers and their children that guiding and helping mothers to exclusively breastfeed results in their children having a lower risk of eczema as adolescents.’
The UK has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world – only one in three UK-born babies have received any breast milk, compared with 49 per cent in the United States and 71 per cent in Norway, according to medical journal The Lancet.
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The NHS recommends women breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of their baby’s life before introducing other foods.
Studies have suggested breastfeeding prevents a whole host of health problems and diseases, including diarrhoea and vomiting bugs, sudden infant death syndrome, childhood leukaemia, type 2 diabetes, obesity and even heart disease in adulthood.
The study was published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association Paediatrics.