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Breastfeeds and diarrhoea- AIIMS study

A recent study has shown that programmes that encourage women to feed their babies only breast milk for the first six months can lead to reduced rates of diarrhoea among infants. By feeding babies only breast milk, mothers can protect their children from contaminated drinking water.

Breastfeeds and diarrhoea- AIIMS study

A recent study has shown that programmes that encourage women to feed their babies only breast milk for the first six months can lead to reduced rates of diarrhoea among infants. By feeding babies only breast milk, mothers can protect their children from contaminated drinking water. Exclusive breastfeeding until age 6 months is recommended for all babies. In developing countries, although breastfeeding is common, exclusive breastfeeding is not. Researchers form the Department of Paediatrics, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India followed 895 women who had recently given birth. The women and babies in the study were from the state of Haryana in India, where literacy rates are low. They noted that community hand pumps were the main water supply in Haryana and that families normally defecated in the fields. Researchers sent 483 of the women to counsellors who provided education about the benefits of exclusively breast feeding children during the first six months of life. The other 412 women were not counselled. The researchers enrolled 1115 infants born in the 9 months after training; 552 in the intervention and 473 in the control communities. The prevalence of diarrhoea at age 3 months and 6 months were assessed.Among women who received counselling, 79 percent fed their babies only breast milk. This is compared to 48 percent in the group that received no counselling. Babies whose mothers had been counselled about breastfeeding were less likely to develop diarrhoea. At three months, they were 36 percent less likely to have diarrhoea than children whose mothers had not been advised to breastfeed exclusively. At six months, they were 15 percent less likely to have diarrhoea. Despite the differences in diet, babies in both groups were of comparable size and weight at the end of the study. Rates of diarrhoea were reduced by about one third in babies who were three months old when mothers fed only breast milk.

Promotion of exclusive breastfeeding until age 6 months in a developing country through existing primary health-care services is feasible, reduces the risk of diarrhoea, and does not lead to growth faltering.

The Lancet, April 2003; Vol. 361 (9367)
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