Research Horizons


Breastfeeding Linked to 33% Reduction in U.S. Post-Perinatal Infant Deaths

General and Community Pediatrics | Top Scientific Achievement
2023 Research Discoveries

Breastfeeding offers substantial health benefits for babies, including a reduced risk of infant mortality. A new study sheds light on exactly how much this health-promoting behavior can reduce a baby’s risk of dying in their first year of life, and the number is significant—about 33%.

“Although there’s some variation in different areas of the country, our research found that the initiation of breastfeeding is significantly associated with lower post-perinatal infant mortality across the United States,” says lead investigator Julie Ware, MD, MPH. “This is a message we must continue to communicate to the public.”

Ardythe Morrow, PhD, was a co-author of the multi-center study conducted in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The analysis reviewed nearly 10 million birth certificates of babies born in the U.S. in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The birth certificates specified whether breastfeeding had been initiated at the time of discharge. Researchers also looked at more than 20,000 deaths occurring among the infants during their first year of life.

After controlling for factors such as maternal age and education, gestational age, smoking during pregnancy, enrollment in a federal supplemental nutrition program, and race and ethnicity, researchers found that overall, breastfeeding was associated with a 33% reduced risk of infant death from seven to 364 days compared to those who were not breastfed. The Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions had the greatest post-perinatal infant mortality reductions (44%), while the Southeast had the least reduction (21%). Reduced post-perinatal infant mortality was present in all U.S. regions.

The consistency of the association between the initiation of breastfeeding and lower post-perinatal infant mortality supports the promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding as an important strategy in all state and regional infant mortality reduction initiatives, the researchers concluded.

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Publication Information
Original title: Associations Between Breastfeeding and Post-Perinatal Infant Deaths in the U.S
Published in: American Journal of Preventive Medicine
Publish date: May 21, 2023
Read the study

Research By

Julie Ware, MD, MPH
Julie Ware, MD, MPH
Associate Professor, Center for Breastfeeding Medicine, Division of General and Community Pediatrics

As an experienced board-certified pediatrician who specializes in breastfeeding medicine, I’m interested in improving maternal and child health through the promotion and support of breastfeeding, especially in those populations least likely to breastfeed.

Ardythe Morrow, PhD, MSc
Ardythe Morrow, PhD, MSc
Director of the Division of Epidemiology, University of Cincinnati