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Breastfeeding benefits both mothers and children

By China Daily | China Daily | Updated: 2018-02-23 10:49
[Photo by Cheng Quan/Asianewsphoto]

Recent research has added to evidence that breastfeeding is beneficial to both mothers and babies.

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal published monthly by the American Medical Association, on Jan 16 showed that breastfeeding can reduce the risk of diabetes among young mothers.

The 30-year-long community-based study carried out by Kaiser Permanente, a managed care organization in the United States, suggested that women who breastfed for six months or more across all births had a 47 percent lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes compared with those who did not breastfeed at all.

"We found a very strong association between breastfeeding duration and a lower risk of developing diabetes, even after accounting for all possible confounding risk factors," wrote lead author Erica Gunderson, a senior research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente research division, in a statement.

In addition, other research suggests that breast milk is beneficial to infants in more than just a nutritional sense.

A study published in JAMA Pediatrics in 2013 showed that early and late exposure to solid foods may promote the development of Type 1 diabetes in children, but breastfeeding combined with the gradual introduction of wheat or barley can enhance protection.

Quoted by China Radio International, Wang Danhua, professor of pediatrics at Peking Union Medical College Hospital, said: "Breast milk contains some hormones which help to promote a baby's growth and appetite. What's more, the mother's milk plays an active protective role in the immune systems of premature babies."

A fact sheet on the website of the World Health Organization recommends that babies should be breastfed exclusively for the first six months of life, followed by the introduction of solid foods along with breastfeeding for another two years or more.

However, only 20 percent of women in China breastfeed their child exclusively in the first six months of life. The figure, based on the latest available research conducted in 2013 by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, is lower than the global average of 38 percent.

When considering how to increase the number of breastfeeding mothers, an editorial in The Lancet, a prestigious medical journal in the United Kingdom, suggested protected nursing breaks and insurance cover for breast pumps.

"More important, genuine and urgent commitment is needed from governments and health authorities to establish a new normal: where every woman can expect to breastfeed and to receive all the support she needs to do so," it added.

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