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Abstract

Background: Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce morbidity and mortality rates due to gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses in children worldwide. Components of breast milk give the breast milk its protective mechanism against childhood illnesses. Additionally, breast milk is economical, costing parents nothing financially. Objective: To provide evidence to healthcare providers regarding the protective effects of breast milk against the incidence of gastroenteritis and pneumonia in infants. Methods: Fifteen published studies were reviewed regarding the effect of breastfeeding on the incidence of gastrointestinal and/or respiratory illnesses. Studies ranged from six months to twelve years in length, comparing the incidence of illnesses between breast and formula fed infants. Databases used were MEDLINE, PubMed, Cochrane Library, DynaMed, and CINAHL. Results: The majority of studies found a statistically significant reduction in the incidence of gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses. Research shows breastfeeding for any length of time is beneficial. Breastfed infants are less likely to visit doctors or be admitted for illnesses. Conclusion and Recommendations: Studies have consistently reported a decrease in the incidence of diarrhea and lower respiratory tract infections in breastfed infants. By breastfeeding, mothers are providing a natural form of nourishment, reducing long-term healthcare cost, eliminating formula cost, and nurturing a bond with her child. As clinicians, recommendations should be made to soon-to-be parents regarding the importance of breast milk during routine obstetric and pediatric visits.

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