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In support of exclusive breastfeeding

Researchers from the St John’s Institute of Dermatology at King’s have released one of the most robust studies to date in support of the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding from birth.

The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics, examined more than 13,000 Belarussian teenagers enrolled in the PROmotion of Breastfeeding Intervention  Trial (PROBIT)  and found a 54 per cent reduction in cases of eczema amongst teenagers whose mothers had received support to breastfeed exclusivel

Our findings add further weight to the importance of campaigns that are tackling low rates of breastfeeding globally– Dr Carsten Flohr, St John’s Institute of Dermatology, King’s College London

Low rates of breastfeeding

The UK has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world. Only one in three (34%) UK-born babies have received any breast milk, compared with 49% in the United States and 71% in Norway. Only 1% of babies in the UK are exclusively breastfed to six months.

The paper’s lead author, Dr Carsten Flohr, whose work is supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and King’s, said: ‘The WHO recommends between four and six months of exclusive breastfeeding to aid prevention of allergy and associated illnesses. Our findings add further weight to the importance of campaigns like the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), which is tackling low rates of breastfeeding globally.'

Stronger evidence

This new study is significant because a lot of the evidence to date in support of the notion that breastfeeding is beneficial to infant health have been less rigorous observational studies.

PROBIT is the largest randomised trial ever carried out in the area of human lactation– Dr Michael Kramer, Principal Investigator, PROBIT

The PROBIT study recruited a total of 17,046 mothers and their new-born babies between June 1996 and December 1997. Half of the maternity hospitals and paediatric clinics involved in the study provided additional support modelled on the recommendations of the WHO and United Nations Children’s Fund’s BFHI, while the other half continued their usual practices.

Dr. Michael Kramer, from McGill’s Faculty of Medicine and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC), the Principal Investigator on the PROBIT study, said: ‘PROBIT is the largest randomised trial ever carried out in the area of human lactation, continues to yield scientifically and clinically important information more than two decades after its inception.'

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