Breastfeeding linked to 33 percent decline in infant mortality, study finds

Researchers say this is evidence to suggest breastfeeding has a "protective benefit"

By Nicole Karlis

Senior Writer

Published July 24, 2023 4:20PM (EDT)

Newborn Baby (Getty Images/Roc Canals)
Newborn Baby (Getty Images/Roc Canals)

There are many benefits to breastfeeding. Yet, women in the U.S. often face many barriers, such as lack of paid parental leave, inflexibility in work hours, lack of locations to express milk, privacy and overall lactation support. A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine strengthens the case to promote and support breastfeeding, providing estimates that breastfed infants are 33 percent less likely to die during the first year of life. 

Authors of the study used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and birth certificate data on nearly 10 million infants born from 2016 to 2018 in the United States. These infants were then followed for one year after birth. On average, the authors of the study concluded that breastfeeding was associated with a 33 percent reduction in infant mortality. However, there were geographic differences ranging from a 44 percent reduction in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions and a 21 percent reduction in the Southeast region.

"Based on these data, there is clear evidence that breastfeeding confers a protective benefit during the first year of life and is strongly associated with reduced post-perinatal infant mortality across the USA," lead investigator Julie L. Ware said in a statement. The U.S. has both the highest infant and maternal mortality rates out of any other high-income country.


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