OBJECTIVE. Our objective was to assess the effect of breastfeeding on the probability of hospitalization as a result of infectious processes during the first year of life
METHODS. We followed 1385 infants from birth to age 1 year between 1996 and 1999. Recruitment and data collection were done at the 6-month well-infant visit under the National Child Health Program. Full breastfeeding, hospital admission, and other relevant variables related to the delivery, infant, mother, health services system, and sociologic aspects were recorded. The statistical analysis included Kaplan-Meier test, Cox regression to obtain the hazard ratio, and the adjusted attributable risk.
RESULTS. Full breastfeeding at discharge after delivery and at 3, 4, and 6 months of age were 85%, 52%, 41%, and 15%, respectively; 78 hospital admissions as a result of infections were recorded (38 respiratory tract, 16 gastrointestinal tract). Mean age at admission was 4.1 months. After estimating the attributable risk, it was found that 30% of hospital admissions would have been avoided for each additional month of full breastfeeding. Seemingly, 100% of full breastfeeding among 4-month-old infants would avoid 56% of hospital admissions in infants who are younger than 1 year.
CONCLUSIONS. On the basis of the present data, we conclude that full breastfeeding would lower the risk for hospital admission as a result of infections among infants who are younger than 1 year within an industrialized country.