Breastfeeding, even for a few days, linked to lower blood pressure in early childhood


DALLAS, July 21, 2021 – Babies who were breastfed, even for a few days, had lower blood pressure when they were toddlers and these differences in blood pressure can translate into improved heart and vascular health. adulthood, according to a new study published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association, an open access journal of the American Heart Association.

Research has shown that risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, can begin in childhood. Studies have also confirmed that breastfeeding is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in adulthood. However, the amount and duration of breastfeeding required to achieve cardiovascular benefit is unclear.

“This is the first study to assess the association of breastfeeding in the first days of life and blood pressure in infancy,” said lead author Kozeta Miliku , MD, Ph.D., Clinical Sciences Officer of the CHILD Cohort Study and Post-Doctoral Fellow in Medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. “Infants who received even a relatively small amount of their mother’s early breastmilk, also known as colostrum, had lower blood pressure at age 3, regardless of how long or when. they received other complementary foods. “

Colostrum is known to be particularly rich in growth factors, immunological components and stem cells which are extremely beneficial for newborns and which are only found in human breast milk.

The researchers used data from the ongoing Canadian CHILD Cohort Study – a study of over 3,000 children born between 2009 and 2012 who have been followed since to understand how early life experiences shape health and development. . They analyzed information on infant feeding collected from hospital records and caregiver questionnaires for nearly 2,400 children.

Of these children, 98% were breastfed to some extent, including 4% who received “limited early breastfeeding” defined as some breastfeeding during the hospital stay. Only 2% of the children in the study were not breastfed at all.

Among breastfed children, 78% were breastfed for six months or more and 62% were exclusively breastfed for at least three months. Exclusive breastfeeding meant only breast milk, without any formulas, solids or other liquids from birth. On average, mothers who never breastfed were younger, more likely to smoke during pregnancy, and less likely to have a post-secondary education, compared to mothers who breastfed briefly or beyond their stay to the hospital.

The researchers found:

At 3 years, infants who had never been breastfed had higher blood pressure readings (mean 103/60 mm Hg), compared to those who were breastfed regardless of duration (mean 99/58 mm Hg).

Among infants who received only limited early breastfeeding in hospital as newborns, blood pressure readings were also lower (mean 99/57 mm Hg) compared to those who n ‘had never been breastfed (mean 103/60 mm Hg).

Blood pressure in breastfed toddlers was lower, regardless of their body mass index at age 3 or their mother’s social, health, or lifestyle factors.

Blood pressure was also lower in toddlers who had been breastfed, regardless of how long they were breastfeeding or if they were given other foods and complementary foods.

“The benefits of sustained and exclusive breastfeeding are well documented for many health problems, including respiratory infections and diarrheal illnesses in infancy, and chronic illnesses like asthma and obesity later in life. life, “said lead study author Meghan B. Azad, Ph.D., associate director of the CHILD cohort study, associate professor of pediatrics and child health at the University of Manitoba and researcher at the Children’s Hospital of Manitoba Research Institute in Winnipeg, Canada. “Our study suggests that for cardiovascular outcomes such as blood pressure, even a brief period of breastfeeding is beneficial. This indicates that colostrum is a key factor in shaping developmental processes during the neonatal period. For many reasons. , sustained breastfeeding must be strongly supported, and it is also important to understand that ‘every drop counts’, especially in these critical first days of life. “

“Physicians and public health policy makers should consider the importance of educating new mothers about breastfeeding and of providing immediate postpartum breastfeeding support,” said Azad, co-director of the Manitoba Interdisciplinary Lactation Center. “The results of our study suggest that the short-term savings resulting from a lack of support for breastfeeding in hospital and too early discharge of mothers could be more than outweighed by the long-term costs of cardiovascular health. reduced later in life. “

The researchers noted that further investigation is warranted to examine the bioactive components of colostrum, understand how they influence cardiovascular development, and determine their long-term associations with cardiovascular health. The study has some limitations, including its observational design, which means it does not allow researchers to confirm a cause-and-effect relationship between breastfeeding and blood pressure early in life. In addition, the researchers collected only one blood pressure reading, rather than taking the average of at least two measurements, and there were few infants who had never been breastfed, which limited comparisons.

“This important study provides continued support for the premise that early childhood care may influence heart health. Although further investigation is needed to understand the mechanisms responsible for the positive impact of early breastfeeding on blood pressure in young children, the authors are to be commended for identifying a modifiable factor that has the potential to improve children’s health, ”said Shelley Miyamoto, MD, FAHA, Chair of the Board of the American Heart Association on Congenital Heart Disease and Youth Heart Health (Young Hearts) and Jack Cooper Millisor Chair in Pediatric Heart Disease and Cardiomyopathy Program Director at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora.


Additional co-authors are Theo J. Moraes, MD, Ph.D .; Allan B. Becker, MD; Piushkumar J. Mandhane, MD, Ph.D .; Malcolm R. Sears, MB, Ch.B .; Stuart E. Turvey, MBBS, Ph.D .; and Padmaja Subbarao, MD, M.Sc. Author disclosures are listed in the manuscript.

The study was funded, in part, by the Canada Research Chairs program. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Network of Centers of Excellence (NCE) in Allergies, Genes and the Environment (AllerGen) provided core funding for the CHILD cohort study. Please see the manuscript for other funding listed.

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