Baby Development Breastfed Babies Have Fewer GI Infections
Posted Jul 26 2008 10:18am
By Colleen Hurley, RD, Certified Kids Nutrition Specialist
Upset tummies, colic, indigestion, and gas are all symptoms that can make for one unhappy baby. It can also be tough for a mum to watch her baby cry until that tummy ache goes away. There may be a way to help keep that gastrointestinal (GI) distress at bay- by breastfeeding. Yes, that is correct; a new study reveals another positive benefit of exclusive breastfeeding.
Researchers in Guadalajara, Mexico discovered that babies who are exclusively breastfed during the first 6 months of life are less like to experience gastrointestinal problems. The study compared 50 formula fed babies with 55 partially breastfed babies and 49 predominately breastfed babies from birth through 6 months of age.
The 154 mothers participating in the study reported symptoms and episodes of GI infections. Only 18 percent of the exclusively breastfed babies experienced a GI infection during the study, while 33% of the babies in the formula and partial breastfeed groups did.
Also noted throughout the study was the babies iron status. Iron levels were checked via blood tests when the babies were 6 months old. Mothers who had low iron status also had babies with low iron levels. Unfortunately, the exclusively breastfed babies had lower iron levels than the other 2 groups. Researchers conclude the benefits of breastfeeding certainly outweigh the risk and low iron is something that can often be easily corrected with supplementation, while a GI infection can lead to serious complications. Authors of the study also note the problem is more common for women in underdeveloped countries as American women usually have adequate iron levels.
What You Can Do
It is known that human milk has low concentrations of iron and is dependent upon the mothers iron status and dietary intake. It is important to note that the type of iron in breast milk is far more absorbable for babies than the supplemental form added to formula, thus breastfed babies often do not require supplementation. If you are breastfeeding, doctors often recommend continuing prenatal vitamins throughout nursing duration as they supply that extra iron both mom and baby need. Consuming foods rich in such as dark leafy greens, beans, red meat, dark meat poultry, blackstrap molasses, pine nuts, and pumpkin seeds on a regular basis can help ensure adequate iron for your baby. Be sure to discuss any questions or concerns regarding iron status with your physician.