The Benefits of Breastfeeding on Breathing

The American Academy of Pediatrics just published a policy statement reiterating their recommendation that infants should be breastfed exclusively for 6 months. They also made this recommendation in their 2005 paper, but this time they actually quantify the health benefits. 

The authors wrote that others have suggested that more than 900 infant deaths per year in the United States could be prevented if 90% of mothers breastfeed exclusively for six months. They also cited evidence that breastfeeding improves neurodevelopmental outcomes and enhances development of host defenses in infants born preterm. Other benefits include the following:

  • 72% reduction in hospitalization for respiratory infections
  • 64% reduction in the incidence of gastrointestinal infections
  • 58% to 77% reduction in the incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis
  • 36% to 45% reduction in the risk of sudden infant death syndrome
  • 27% to 42% reduction in the incidence of asthma, atopic dermatitis, and eczema
  • 52% reduction in the risk of celiac disease
  • 31% reduction in the risk of inflammatory bowel disease
  • 15% to 30% reduction in the incidence of obesity in adolescences and adulthood
  • 15% to 20% reduction in the risk of childhood leukemia and lymphoma.

I’ve also proposed arguments made by dentists that bottle-feeding increases your risk of dental crowding and malocclusion. The smaller your jaws, the less airway you’ll have to breathe through properly during the day and especially at night. Notice that sleep-related breathing problems can directly or indirectly influence most, if not all the bullets listed above. 

It’s also important to note that the physical act of breastfeeding itself is what protects against dental crowding and an increased risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea later in life. Obviously, exclusive breastfeeding without pumping is not practical or realistic in our society. However, you have to think about these implications.

Do you think Pediatricians are going a good job promoting breastfeeding?


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3 thoughts on “The Benefits of Breastfeeding on Breathing

  1. it depends where you live. in the South there is little support for breastfeeding. I almost got accused of munchausen by proxy for having my son’s tongue tie clipped so that he could successfully breastfeed. thank goodness I did this because it probably made a difference for palatal development and his ability to nasal breathe. in California there is a lot of support for breastfeeding.

    my 4 yr old son exclusively breastfed for about 11 months; he would not take a bottle or much babyfood. he continued to breastfeed after taking table food until 16 months. he’s had adenoids, palatine and lingual tonsils out but he is still in bed right now pulling up to 8.5 cwp on his autoCPAP. so, yes, breastfeeding is important to develop the jaws but I think some of us are just born with small jaws. we would probably be worse off if we never breastfed.

  2. Both of my girls breast fed for well over a year and we haven’t had any of the respiratory/digestive issues of our friends who’ve bottle-fed. Unfortunately, however, my oldest used a pacifier for many years too. I believe that’s at least a major reason why she had her adenotonsillectomy this morning. I also believe low vitamin d levels may play a big role in sleep apnea once you’ve addressed the huge tonsils. Neurologist Stasha Gominak makes an interesting case in her YouTube lecture.

  3. Atrial natriuretic peptide inhibits conversion of 25OH vitamin D to 1, 25 vitamin D at the kidney, by inhibiting the hydroxylase enzyme. so I suspect continued low vitamin D levels may reflect persistent OSA.
    my kids also used a pacifier regularly after they finished breastfeeding. but my son’s throat is very narrow in the back and this is clearly congenital as my airway is the same.