Breastfeeding best for girls

By Lauren Edwards • Published: September 9th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Breastfeeding… doctors have said time and again how beneficial it is for your baby.

And according to new research, if your baby is female, breastfeeding is particularly vital.

The idea that breastfeeding protects babies of both genders against disease has been around for years. Yet a study recently published in Pediatrics proposes that, at least when it comes to respiratory infections, the protective effects of breast milk are higher in girls than boys.

The study, led by Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, took place in Buenos Aries and followed one-hundred-nineteen premature babies for the first year of their lives. Researchers not only found that female babies benefited more from breastfeeding than males, but also that girls who were fed formula were at the highest risk for serious respiratory infections. They were eight times more likely than their breastfed counterparts to develop a serious infection.

Additionally, researchers say that breast milk doesn’t seem to affect the actual number of infections in babies, but instead helps them to better handle existing infections.

Because of these findings, some researchers now doubt the idea that breast milk directly transfers protection against infections from mother to child. Instead, they say, these chemicals may somehow “switch on” a protective mechanism already present in the baby, and that this may be more easily activated in females than in males.

At any rate, researchers stress the importance of breastfeeding when possible. No matter the baby’s gender, breastfeeding aids in brain development and overall health.