Any duration, exclusivity of breastfeeding linked to lower BP in early childhood
Any type of breastfeeding, regardless of duration or exclusivity, was associated with the child presenting with lower BP by age 3 years, according to new findings published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
“The benefits of sustained and exclusive breastfeeding are well documented for numerous health conditions, including respiratory infections and diarrheal disease during infancy, and chronic conditions including asthma and obesity later in life,” Meghan B. Azad, PhD, associate professor in the department of pediatrics and child health at the University of Manitoba and the Manitoba Developmental Origins of Chronic Diseases in Children Network at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, said in a press release. “Our study suggests that for cardiovascular outcomes such as blood pressure, even a brief period of breastfeeding is beneficial.”
The CHILD Cohort Study, a large prospective cohort study, included 2,382 children from women with singleton pregnancies from 2008 to 2012 with data on early-life feeding and BP. Infant feeding patterns were obtained through hospital records during the first days of life and reports by their mothers throughout infancy and researchers measured BP once the children were aged 3 years.
In the cohort, 97.9% of infants were breastfed, with 4.2% only being breastfeed during their birth hospitalization, defined as early limited breastfeeding. Among children who were breastfed, 78% were breastfed for 6 or more months and 62% were breastfed for at least 3 months.
Systolic and diastolic BP were higher among children who were never breastfed compared with children who were breastfed and children with early limited breastfeeding by age 3 years (never breastfed, 103/60 mm Hg; ever breastfed, 99/58 mm Hg; early limited breastfeeding, 99/57 mm Hg).
These results remained consistent when adjusted for maternal age, ethnicity, smoking, education, pre-pregnancy BMI, duration of hospital stay after delivery, child screen time, sugar-sweetened beverage intake, birth factors and current BMI (difference between ever breastfed and never breastfed, –3.47 mm Hg systolic; 95% CI, 6.14 to –0.8; difference between limited breastfeeding and never breastfed, –4.24 mm Hg systolic; 95% CI, –7.45 to –1.04).
In addition, there was no significant dose-response association according to duration or breastfeeding exclusivity with BP among breastfed children.
According to Azad, doctors and policymakers should highlight the importance of educating new mothers about the benefits of breastfeeding as well as offering immediate postpartum lactation support.
“This points to colostrum as a key factor in shaping developmental processes during the newborn period,” Azad said. “For many reasons, sustained breastfeeding should be strongly supported, and it is also important to understand that ‘every drop counts’, especially in those critical first few days of life.”